As a personal trainer in London, I’m always encouraging my clients to get more active in-between our PT sessions. One popular sport in London is tennis, but unfortunately it is not risk-free. This blog post is the first in a series on the subject of tennis injuries. Prepare yourself for an eye-watering read!
Eye Injuries on the Tennis Court
When you’re hit in the eye with a tennis ball, injuries can range from relatively mild to severe. If the ball makes contact with the edge of the eye-socket rather than directly in the eye, the worst you’re likely to suffer is bruising and swelling around the eye and momentary blurred vision. The orbital bone of the eye-socket is designed to protect your eyes from blunt impact trauma.
However if the ball makes direct contact at slow to moderate speed, you risk an eye infection from dirt and debris on the ball, particularly if you’re playing on clay courts, artificial clay or astroturf which contains sand. Wash the eye out with a bottle of water, and for thoroughness wash it out with saline water at the soonest opportunity to reduce the risk of infection. If your eye remains red or sore or produces pus the next day, consult your pharmacist for appropriate eye-drops.
If you’re hit directly in the eye by a tennis ball travelling at faster speeds, for instance from the rebound of a smash or from a volley, there’s a risk of more serious damage. After the initial pain, shock, disorientation and swearing, your vision is likely to be blurred. As above, wash out the eye to remove debris. Then get an ice-pack on it to reduce swelling, or at least a towel soaked in cold water and wrung-out.
The result of a harder impact can be a bruised retina, the thin layer of tissue which lines the back of your eye, which in severe cases can lead to scarring and impaired vision. Another possible result is micro-bleeding inside the front part of the eyeball, known as hyphema, where blood pools between the cornea (the white part of the eye) and the iris (the coloured part around the pupil). You might also suffer a scratched cornea.
If the eye itself appears sunken or bulging, or blurred vision persists for more than a few minutes, seek urgent medical attention after the initial first aid. Avoid the temptation to rub the eye, however painful or scratchy it feels. Needless to say, if you’ve injured your eye, don’t try to drive yourself to A&E, get a cab.
If you’re a member of a tennis club, make sure you know where the first aid box is, and ensure it contains saline solution and an eye-bath. Keep a full bottle of water handy to flush out the eye if needed.
Preventing Eye Injuries on the Tennis Court
The greatest risk of eye injuries is when you’re playing doubles, particularly when you’re at the net. You need to by hyper-alert during play and react fast if the ball comes your way. Keep your tennis racket up when you’re at the net, and track the ball at all times.
However professional you are or however fast your reactions, you can still be caught out, as Frenchman Nicolas Mahut was at Wimbledon 2019 in the men’s doubles finals. You can see this incident on YouTube. Fortunately after some medical attention the doctor gave him the all-clear to play on. Watch the YouTube clip to see him being hit in the face shortly afterwards, and then in the balls later in the match, a triple whammy.
When you’re playing recreational tennis, try to avoid hitting the ball hard directly at your opponent, even though it’s technically within the rules. Also, be careful when sending the balls to the other side of the court between games. Roll them over gently or bat them over softly into the corner, not directly at the opponent.
A good precaution is to wear protective goggles (used by squash-players) or sports sunglasses with shatter-resist polycarbonate protective lenses.
More tennis injury blog-posts coming soon…
(Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and online nutrition coach, as well as a keen tennis player)