Tennis Elbow

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is an injury to the tendons attaching the forearm muscles to the outer part of the elbow. This injury comes from repetitive stress — in other words, a simple physical activity repeated over and over again, such as:

  • using a manual screwdriver
  • painting
  • raking
  • and, yes, playing tennis

Who is at risk for tennis elbow?

  • Tennis elbow affects more men than women
  • Tennis elbow affects people of any age, but most patients tend to be between 30 and 50 years of age
  • Between 1 and 3 percent of the overall population has tennis elbow
  • Up to 50 percent of tennis players have tennis elbow (but less than 5 percent of tennis elbow cases are related to actual tennis)
  • Golfers
  • Baseball players
  • Bowlers
  • Gardeners or landscapers
  • House or office cleaners
  • Carpenters
  • Mechanics
  • Assembly-line workers

What causes tennis elbow?

Repeated contraction of the forearm muscles used to straighten the hand and wrist, causing small tears in the tendons attaching the forearm muscles to the outer part of the elbow.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

The following are the most common symptoms of tennis elbow. However, each adolescent may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • pain, especially over the outside area of the elbow
  • pain that gets worse when shaking hands or squeezing objects
  • pain with wrist movement
  • forearm weakness

The symptoms of tennis elbow may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your adolescent's physician for a diagnosis.

How we care for tennis elbow

Most tennis elbow injuries are initially treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. NSAIDs should not be used for an extended period of time because they may cause internal bleeding in the stomach. About 10 percent of cases of tennis elbow are bad enough to require surgery, which has usually involved trimming or detaching/re-attaching the inflamed tendon. Boston Children's Hospital is one of a few centers in the world that uses platelet-rich plasma to help the tendons heal themselves. Furthermore, since tennis elbow is a repetitive stress injury, our doctors can help your child carry on with their activities in a way that won't tire or hurt their elbow.