Top 7 Table Tennis Injuries and How to Cope with it

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People always suppose that in ping pong games; the biggest enemy is the opponent of yours. But I dare say you are your biggest opponent because ping pong is not just a fight between you and the aggressive rival standing at your front but also a fight against the pain or injuries that may be inflicted on you while playing.

Injuries, though insignificant, can be a real hurdle to success, so be proactive in finding out about the most common injuries in table tennis and how to avoid them.

1. Sprained ankle

Causes

Bear in mind that just like you, your ankle has its own “comfort zone.” Trust me as that’s an anatomical fact!
Imagine, your ankle is a pack of bones that are closely intertwined with tough bands of tissue (the so-called ligaments). Ligaments stabilize joints and eliminate the risk of excessive damage. But don’t you know, by playing intensively and moving uncontrollably fast, you distort the ligaments, forcing them out of the restricted boundaries.

The bad news is even the most eminent; outstanding competitors are not exempt from being victims of ankle sprain injuries. Worse, these particular enthusiasts may stand higher risks of having ankle sprain than ordinary contestants due to bundles of non-stop training classes.

Symptoms

When the injuries to ligaments are palpable enough, you start feeling tenderness when touching the ankle. In certain cases, bruises and swelling will start settling in. You might be less capable of making a sharp turn or delivering a powerful, abrupt shot due to the ankle’s instability.

It gets worse when you insist on playing without having a respite as table tennis is a weight-bearing game. Your affected foot might not be resistant enough to bear the overall body weight, leading to your defeat.

Complications

If you have several slight symptoms, remain hopeful that it hasn’t yet come to the extreme point; which is to have chronic joint instability, excruciating ankle pain, and arthritis in the joint.

Solutions and preventive measures

Treatment and speed of recovery surely depend on the severity of the pain.

In case it’s just the onset of the injury, you can do without a doctor’s intervention. Instead, try some over-the-counter pain medications such as applying cold water on the affected foot, soothing the pain with aspirin or medical lotion, etc.

Still, unless you’re sure of your condition, a medical evaluation is a must to figure out the extent of the damage. But this might not always be the option as there would be times when you cannot take off running from the match, like in a tournament or rigorous training. So, before putting your body to work, follow these steps to prevent the infliction of an ankle sprain.

(The last one is the keynote!)

  • Warmup for about 15 minutes before the practice
  • Avoiding shoes that exert pressure on the pain; opt for those that allow flexibility and proper flow of air
  • Try ankle support tapes to assist your injured ankle
  • Reduce the amount of energy on the table tennis court
  • At home, pick up a habit of doing balance exercises

2. Racket injuries

Causes

For the most part, injuries in table tennis will come from ourselves only. I mean physical pain due to poor techniques and our lack of experience. But you should prepare yourself from the worst-case scenarios when you get hit in the face by your partner. I mean by the racket of your partner, to be precise.

Racket injuries are apparent in the name. You suffer from the pain caused by a racket going at you.

Solutions

So as not to be a target of this injury, coordination between the two is the key. Knowing your rival is the first step to understanding your chance of winning, and lessening the possibility of being knocked out by a flying paddle.

3. Spinal disc strain

Causes

Now, let’s get to know the spinal cord’s damage – the by-product of excessive and repetitive twisting beyond your endurance. It is the rarest table tennis injuries, in reality, however, we should gain certain tips on how to deal with it. You can never be too careful!

Solutions

Mild warmup exercises, coupled with adequate rest, is the perfect “antidote” against spinal disc strain.
Specifically, if the pain is mild to moderate, a gentle massage and heat therapy will do just fine. However, at times, your doctor might recommend physical therapy, including acupuncture, pelvic traction, etc.

4. Knee injuries

Causes

Caution! The knee is the most vulnerable part of your body, don’t you know? It consists of four structures: bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. And any damages to one or several of these components can cause knee injuries in various forms
Here is one of the common ones: Fracture, which is, more often than not, the outcome of high energy trauma in ping pong and any sports. For example, when players are in high spirits, the players tend to exert themselves a little more than they actually can: bending a bit backward or forwards to save a point, exploiting the advantage to hit a stroke. In such cases, the inability to stay balanced might cause dislocation in the knee’s structure.

Symptoms

  • Swelling
  • Tickling pain at first and later severe pain
  • Give out a “cracking,” popping noise
  • Unable to move flexibly, bend, and lean on either side with ease

Complications

Making sudden, rapid movements in table tennis also leads to anterior and posterior ligament tears. These injuries are way more severe since its consequences come along with damage to other structures in the knee.

In ping pong, age is no match to skills. However, we should acknowledge that middle-aged players may surpass others in expertise, but they can be the most vulnerable victims of tendon tears, especially when twisting, having awkward motions.

Solutions and preventive measures

Knee injuries will take months or even years with the help of surgeries to recover completely. If you would like to speed things up a bit, you can give it a gentle compression, make light movements, and remember not to indulge in an overdose of practices. Still, this can only shorten the period required by a tiny sliver, so do not expect your wound to magically vanish in a matter of days.
If you are lucky to have a less severe case, you can continue playing ping pong as long as you wear knee straps to prevent the knee from moving; or crutches to help share the weight put on your injury. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines may also help.

5. Elbow injury

Causes

In a table of cards, an intelligent mind defines the winner. Likewise, in a game of ping pong, your hands are responsible for ball maneuvers. Dexterous hands belong to the would-be champion of the two.

That’s why hands, arms, and forearm muscles are mostly overused; thus, the upshot is that your elbow will carry all the pain and excessive compressions. Uncannily overextending your elbows can result in inflamed tendons and ligaments at the end of the day as these are soft, easily injured tissues. Putting too much energy into a shot, but failing to have proper delivery techniques, will lead to an unwanted event in which the energy backfires into your elbow.

Injuries coming from the bumping tendons of your forearm muscles are called Golfer’s elbow – when players overuse their wrists and clench their fingers to grip the paddles tightly

Symptoms

  • Stiffness
  • Weakened arm muscles
  • Tingling, numbness in your arm, hands
  • Swelling, redness

Complications

When you start feeling the difficulty in arm movements, your elbow is sending out a “distress signal.”. You may develop a hot temperature due to infection, or the pain might spread to the wrists and hands. Go straight to the emergency department if you happen to detect it

Solutions and preventive measures

Mild cases simply need painkillers, ice packs, and a few days’ rests. So, you should temporarily quit your daily ping pong practice. If possible, use anti-inflammatory creams to prevent swelling and reduce the risk of infection.

Be careful not to rest too long because complete immobility may cause stiffness and make things worse.

Still, avoid bending your elbow into many awkward positions. Delivering a backhand shot is also by no means a recommended tactic given your elbow condition.

Keep in mind that when partaking in table tennis, you can use a splint or epicondylitis clasps to assist your elbow in its movement. In that way, it also eases the discomfort when you have to lift something a bit heavy.

6. Shoulder pain

Causes

Table tennis playing on end might induce shoulder pain. In detail, it comes down to poor techniques and misuse of tactics as the main culprits. Seasoned players have some exclusive movements which they keep using to gain an advantage over rivals. And repetitive motions that involve exerting so much pressure on the shoulder will trigger shoulder pain.

The shoulder of the hand holding the paddles will be susceptible to nastier pain since the muscles around the part expose themselves to more “wear and tear” due to overuse.

Symptoms

  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Moving your arms, hands become an obstacle

Complications

Compared to other tennis injuries, this type of pain is less severe. At the end of the match, better treat it to a mild massage and it will recover before you even know it. However, If the pain is stubborn and going more unbearable with every passing minute, you should conform to a physiotherapist’s guidance. Let just hope that will not be the case!

Solutions and preventive measures

There are no better ways to say bye-bye to shoulder pain than a good long rest. An absence of relaxation causes the tendons to overstrain. Besides, learn the proper techniques. It’s creative to go freestyle, but in such cases of shoulder pain, you should prioritize safety. Keep yourself well balanced and in the ready position before dealing with a blow to the opponent. If not, your shot will backfire, making you the miserable victims of your doings.

Next, inaccurate posture can also make allowances for other injuries to arise. As soon as you feel the mild pain from your shoulder, try to keep it straight and remain in the correct position to avoid shoulder dislocation and other injuries.

Last but not least, aim for an even energy distribution from your center of mass since it helps the weight transfer more effectively, tackling the problem of weight loading in a particular part of the body.

7. Calf strain

Causes

A calf strain is another one of the overuse injuries categories. It stems from our blissful ignorance right from the very beginning of the match.

In the warmup section to “break the ice,” many forget to kickstart the muscles in their calf by some simple movements as they don’t consider it that important to do anything with the calf. Instead, the most emphasis is on hands, arms, legs, and knees. Yes, that’s sad but true.

Also, in between rounds, people relax their overall body except for their calves, while calf relaxation is the most relaxed and comfortable step. How to relax? Simply by sitting down. Your calf is exposed to long-hour standing, running, as well as constant moving during the match, so why not take time to have a sit-down for the sake of both your body and your calf?

Symptoms

  • Tightness in your calves
  • Muscle strain causing discomfort in moving
  • Muscle fatigue

Complications

Standing for too long can wear out your calf and potentially lead to other worse injuries.
Without a warmup, competing in a fast-paced game like table tennis means facing the severe threats of slipping, or falling over if you are not adept at keeping balance.

Solutions and preventive measures

Treatment for a calf strain is short and sweet. Try to take enough rest (sometimes a few days will be enough). It’s a healthy idea to intersperse periods of break time with some relaxing exercises. A well-rested body is more resilient against injuries than anything else.

Conclusions,

At some point, injuries in table tennis are ineluctable. Be forward-looking because who knows you’ll not have to suffer from knee, elbow, shoulder injuries, etc. No one is an exception, even experts. Never let these come in your way and hinder you from moving toward your goal. Stay safe and try to hone superior ping pong skills at home, as that will secure your key to success!


Brixton Johansson