Ulnar Wrist Pain in Tennis – Tips to Help Prevent Injury

The 2014 US Open Tennis tournament was filled with ups and downs this year. Mirin Cilic beat out some top seeded players to win the men’s championship and the favorite on the women’s side, Serena Williams won the title. Years of training, wins and losses have been part of any tennis player’s repertoire, so have injuries.

Ulnar Wrist

Wrist injuries are common for tennis players and elite professionals. The anatomic location of the wrist and its major role in the kinetic chain needed in stroke production, it is unfortunately a common site of pain and disability. Often, the pain presents on the pinkie-side, or ulnar side, of the wrist.

Many players experience this ulnar pain in the non-dominant hand during two-handed backhand strokes. In this stroke, the top hand is placed in extreme ulnar deviation and extension, while dynamically moving from supination to pronation. This same motion-type occurs in many tennis strokes, and as such can lead to acute and chronic ulnar wrist injuries.

Tennis players can present with an acute event of sudden onset – either after a violent fall with the wrist in extension and pronation/supination, or after hitting the tennis ball and having an immediate feeling of ulnar wrist pain. According to Dr. Weil, “Ulnar sided wrist pain in tennis players can often be due to tendinitis and can be treated in a conservative fashion. Sometimes degeneration of the cartilage of the wrist can occur.

If you are experiencing pain for more than a few days while playing tennis an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon is recommended.” When the presentation of pain is chronic and insidious, the ulnar wrist pain arises over the course of days or weeks, and the athlete usually cannot recall a single inciting injury.

Wrist injuries in tennis players often result from over-use, improper technique, and even using the wrong equipment. Also, excessive wrist motion during the stroke will predispose a player to injury. Some things to consider to help prevent ulnar wrist pain:

  • Equipment: Using the wrong grip size, wrong strings, and improper string tension can all lead to wrist pain. The grip size can determine the amount of force needed to hold the racket through the stroke, leading to increased firmness of grip and potential injury. Too firm a grip can restrict free movement of the arm. The grip should be only as firm as necessary to ensure proper stroke technique.
  • Grip: Extreme grips like a Western will compromise the position of the wrist, forearm, and elbow which places additional stress on the adjacent muscles and tendons. For the two-handed backhand player, use of the continental grip on the bottom hand and the Eastern forehand grip on the top hand is preferable. Players using extreme grips (Western) place their wrist and forearm in positions that place additional stress on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments and can predispose them to injury. Additionally, another breakdown in technique is when the player uses the wrist and hand as primary force generators during ball strike. The wrist and hand must be viewed as links in the kinetic chain whereby large forces generated from the ground, lower extremity, and trunk are transferred.
  • Position of wrist at ball strike: In the two handed back-hand, the tendency for some players is to place the top hand in extreme extension and ulnar deviation prior to ball strike. The thought is to power the ball into creating topspin at contact. By using the Eastern Forehand grip in the top hand (left hand in right handed players) and by incorporating the players’ core and lower body/legs into the stroke properly, the lower body/core can load the energy and transfer load and energy up the kinetic chain into the arm and wrist to abate some of the torsional stress on the wrist.
  • Physical: Due to the physical demands of tennis and all of the repetition that is involved, tennis play causes the dominant playing side to over-develop which leads to overall body muscle imbalance. Exercises that strengthen the wrist, forearm and elbow include wrist curls, radial and ulnar deviation resistance maneuvers, and ball dribble off the floor then wall to improve both strength and endurance.

Helpful tips to prevent wrist injury:

1) Choose your equipment carefully, take into account level of play and age.

2) Be sure to use proper grip and technical skills, and be open to reviewing these periodically, even using video, making note of changes in swing mechanics pre and post ball strike.

3) Have a daily routine to include strength and flexibility exercises that increase stamina and maintain range of motion; this should include the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, and shoulders.

4) Have elastic bands in your bag to allow you to perform strength exercises anytime and have them easily accessible; also, you should be able to perform this routine away from the supervision of coaches, trainers, and parents.

5) Perform strengthening exercises after practice or match play or on “off” days where not hitting is done to avoid muscle fatigue during play.

If you believe you are suffering from a tennis-related injury and need specialized orthopedic care, Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle provide excellent treatment options available for you. Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.

Training for a Triathlon

The 2014 Seattle Seafair Triathlon and Kids Seafair Triathlon will take place on July 20, 2014. OSS is the Presenting Sponsor for these events and the orthopedic surgeons would like to congratulate the athletes who are coming out to be part of this event.

Training for a triathlon is tough but that’s part of the challenge. Consider this: Four out of five amateur triathletes are injured while training, and three of those four are injured badly enough to affect their daily activities.

The complexity of the sport and broad range of knowledge needed to train and compete safely are contributing factors. The triathlete must learn about appropriate equipment specifications, proper body mechanics, injury prevention and overall training programs that prepare the body for the stresses of triathlon.

Cross-training for three different events also increases the risk of certain overuse injuries, and an untreated injury in one part of the body can lead to problems elsewhere. For example, a knee injury from running can cause extra stress on the back, leading to lower back pain when cycling; and the cumulative effects of swimming and cycling can fatigue calf muscles, making legs more susceptible to injury during a run.

The good news is, most nontraumatic injuries are related to training errors that can be corrected – and professionals with specialized knowledge in triathlon training and injury prevention can help.

Prevention: Training Smart

The best way to avoid a traumatic injury is a training program that balances strength, flexibility and endurance through appropriate weight-lifting, stretching and cross-training. But training techniques are not one-size-fits-all. Every individual has a unique combination of anatomy, strength, endurance, and flexibility – so what works well for one athlete is not always the best advice for another.

Understanding the complex interactions between musculoskeletal groups related to swimming, cycling, and running is essential in triathlon training. An OSS surgeon can evaluate your physical conditioning, analyze your training techniques and correct errors that can lead to future injuries, and provide a training program optimized for you as an individual.

The best training program can’t prevent all injuries. When injuries do occur, there are three things you need to know: (1) how to evaluate the severity of an injury, (2) how to self-treat an overuse injury, and (3) when to seek professional help.

Dr. Weil has this to say about the upcoming triathlon and words of wisdom when it comes to training for a triathlon, “I’d like to congratulate all the triathletes participating in the 2014 Seafair Triathlon! I’d also like to send a special congratulations to the first time triathletes participating in this year’s event. As you all know training for and participating in the sport of triathlon involves a huge commitment on the part of athletes and their families. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t go as planned and injury can derail even the most experienced triathletes. I have experienced this issue first hand from all perspectives, as a treating physician, as a 2013 Ironman Canada Finisher, and currently as an injured athlete in rehabilitation trying to get back to the sport. When the unforeseen occurs, it is always best to seek medical evaluation. Often times if issues are addressed early on, they can be treated without significant time loss from training and without surgery. It is my goal as a treating physician to understand athletes needs and to work together with athletes to help them return to sport as soon as possible.”

If you believe you are suffering from a sport-related injury and need specialized orthopedic care, the orthopedic surgeons at OSS provide excellent treatment options for your injury. Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.

Hand Rejuvenation – New Trend with Women and Plastic Surgery

June is the quintessential month for weddings. The phrase “June Bride” is in our vernacular, conjuring up images of a beautiful bride, a handsome groom, family and a spectacular and exotic honeymoon.

Before the wedding takes place however, there is the all-important engagement photo shoot and for that, women throughout the country are acting on a new trend – plastic surgery for their hands, also known as hand rejuvenation or “handlifts” to show-off their beautiful diamond ring.

This new trend is rooted in today’s social media practice called the “selfie”. Newly engaged women are excited to show off the ring on their finger and post it in social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram. “Selfies” have made society more self conscious of their appearance including their hands. “Handlifts” have gone up 40% since the rise of social media.

According to Dr. Weil, “Next to our faces the hands are the most recognizable and exposed parts of the body. The hands are often forgotten when it comes to rejuvenation procedures. However, they are one of the first areas which are noticed by others, especially when there are years between the appearance of your face and hands. Just like our faces, our hands will show the signs of aging. In some cases our hands may even make us look older than we are. As we age our hands lose fat– along with collagen– which decreases the elasticity and leads to thinning of our skin. This can cause the skin to become loose and wrinkled and cause the veins and tendons of our hands to become more prominent. Today, however, Dermal Fillers (Juvederm, Restylane, Perlane, Radiesse, etc.) have become an excellent option for restoring the volume and smoothness that our youthful hands once had.”

Dr. Weil’s dermal filler of choice for hand rejuvenation is Juvederm Ultra XC. Juvederm Ultra XC works by restoring the volume of hyaluronic acid in your skin, helping to reduce wrinkles and smooth out folds. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a naturally occurring sugar found in the human body.

Hyaluronic acid creates volume in the skin by delivering nutrients and by holding in water, making sure the skin stays hydrated. Its function is very similar to that of a sponge–it soaks up and absorbs water–which in this case creates volume in the skin of your hands. Dr Weil goes on to say, “Think of hyaluronic acid as the body’s internal moisturizer!”

Youthful hands have a fullness of the skin and subcutaneous tissues. The skin is soft and without wrinkles except for the natural lines seen over the finger joints and knuckles. Veins may be visible, but not obvious.
Loss of skin thickness and volume in the tissues underneath the skin make the veins easily noticeable and unattractive.

Pigment changes and dark spots occur as a result of sun exposure. The thin skin becomes wrinkled and has far less elasticity.

Hand rejuvenation with dermal fillers is an affordable, non-invasive way to treat volume loss and thinning of the skin that occurs with aging.

Using dermal fillers to restore the volume and smooth away wrinkles of the hands is a procedure with little discomfort and no downtime.

If you would like more information about hand rejuvenation, call Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Weil.

Avoiding and Treating Spring Sports Injuries

Spring arrives on March 20, and with it, the crack of a baseball or softball bat, the sound of a track coach’s whistle and the rough-and-tumble of other outdoor sports in the Pacific Northwest.  Spring sports not only herald the return of warmer weather, they are a forerunner of an increase in an athlete’s risk of many sports-related injuries. Doctors at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle (OSS), who have seen just about every possible sports-related injury, offer tips on how to avoid and treat many sports-related injuries.

Dr. Weil states, “As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery, the spring is a busy time for me.  I see many sports related injuries in the spring time as people in the northwest come out of winter hibernation.  Some of the more common injuries are due to bicycle crashes due to cycling on wet roads and overuse injuries as people ramp up their activities too quickly.  The old adage, “slow and steady wins the race”, is true in this case.  I look forward to the upcoming triathlon season and will be out in the water, on the bike, and running as well.”

Upper Extremity

In both pro and college baseball players, upper extremity injuries are most common and account for approximately 20 percent of all injuries.  Injuries include dislocations, sprains and strains, labral injuries, and rotator cuff injuries.  Shoulder problems are usually part of a bigger problem, alignment.  By correcting the alignment issues, most shoulder problems can be resolved as long as they haven’t passed the point of no return. Once this happens, surgery is usually the only option to truly fix the problem.

Elbow injuries account for approximately 16 percent of pro and 8 percent of college injuries. These injuries include sprains and strains, contusions, and more severe injuries such as ulnar collateral ligament injuries (Tommy John) and posterior impingement. Elbow sprains and strains are more likely the precursor to an ulnar collateral injury. And just as in the shoulder, by correcting alignment issues, most elbow problems can be resolved as long as they haven’t passed the point of no return.

Baseball Injuries

The 3 main lower extremity injuries in baseball are:

  • Muscle strains, such as a pulled hamstring or quad,
  • Ankle sprains, and
  • Contusions (ie getting hit by a pitch).

Rehab for sprains and strains can involve a short time off from play (if needed) and rehabilitation consisting of regaining range of motion/flexibility, strength, and balance. All of this should be done under the guidance of an athletic trainer or physical therapist.


Hand and wrist injuries account for approximately 10 percent of baseball injuries. These can be minor such as contusions to more serious injuries such as fractures and dislocations. The majority of these injuries are from being hit by a pitch or from sliding. Hand and wrist injuries should be evaluated by your athletic trainer who will refer to a sports medicine physician for more severe injuries such as dislocations and fractures. Minor injuries are usually treated with rest, rehabilitation, and taping/bracing if needed.

Track and Field Injuries

Many track and field injuries can be prevented by increasing the level of awareness and knowledge of prevention.  Muscle strains and sprains are the most common track and field injuries. 

Common track and field injuries include:

  • Shin splints
  • Microscopic stress fractures
  • Compartment syndrome
  • Tibial stress syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis (pain on the bottom of the foot)
  • Runner’s knee
  • Chondromalacia
  • Patellar tendonitis and Osgood-Schlatter disease
  • Muscle strains to the quadriceps (front of thighs)
  • Hamstrings (back of thighs)
  • Hip adductors (groin) and hip flexor (front of hip)
  • I-T band syndrome
  • Scrapes and burns from falling
  • Blisters

OSS doctors offer the following tips for avoiding sports injuries, including baseball and track:

  1. Wear properly fitted shoes – Protective gear is vital, but shoes that fit well are the single most important piece of equipment in just about every sport.
  2. Properly warm-up before engaging in activities – Both youth and adults today seem to believe that they can just ‘flip a switch’ and begin competing.  By warming up properly, you gradually lengthen and stretch your muscles, increase your body temperature and blood flow, and alert your body to be prepared for more rigorous physical activity.
  3. Don’t continue to play when you are injured – It’s tempting to try to ‘play through’ an injury, or to go back out on the field before you are ready.  That is almost always when greater; often more significant damage is done to an athlete.
  4. Establish a good stretching program to include the gastrocnemius/soleus (calves), hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and hip adductors. Initial stretches should    be static (no  bounce) and held for at least 30 seconds, then progressed to dynamic stretches such as walking lunges or high stepping.
  5. Hydrate 30 minutes prior to practice/game and drink a combination of water/sports drinks during activities.

If you believe you are suffering from a sports-related injury and need specialized orthopedic care, Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle provide excellent treatment options available for you.  Please feel free to contact OSS at (206) 633-8100 to schedule an appointment.

Save the Dates for OSS Physicians Speaker Series!

Save the Dates! OSS physicians will be speaking about several orthopedic health and information topics from October – December 2013 at Swedish Ballard. Below is a list of dates and times for you to choose from:

October 2, 2013
Dr. Peterson: Joint Replacement: The Right Choice for You? 6-8 p.m. at the Swedish Ballard Campus. Free hip- and knee-replacement seminar. If you have arthritic joint pain and are considering joint replacement, you’ll want to attend this important class. If you have arthritic joint pain and are considering joint replacement, you’ll want to attend this important class. Dr. Peterson will discuss hip- and knee-replacement surgery, as well as the latest in robotic-assisted surgery for those who have advanced arthritis in part of their knee. There will also be a question and answer session with Dr. Peterson.

Find out more and register here!

October 9, 2013
Dr. Weil: Relief from Your Hand and Wrist Pain. 6-8 p.m. at the Swedish Ballard Campus. Learn about treatments for different types of fractures; ways to treat arthritis in the wrist, thumbs and fingers; and how to prevent and treat carpal tunnel syndrome and other overuse conditions.

Find out more and register here!

November 13, 2013
Dr. Reed: Relief from Your Foot and Ankle Pain. 6-8 p.m. at the Swedish Ballard Campus. The foot and ankle are two of the most often under-treated structures of the body. Dr. Reed, who specializes in the care of the foot and ankle will discuss the anatomy and common injuries and disorders of the foot and ankle, and treatment options for the conditions. There will be a question-and-answer session with the surgeon included in the class.

Find out more and register here!

December 4, 2013
Dr. Ruhlman: Relief from Your Hand and Wrist Pain. 6-8 p.m. at the Swedish Ballard Campus. Learn about treatments for different types of fractures; ways to treat arthritis in the wrist, thumbs and fingers; and how to prevent and treat carpal tunnel syndrome and other overuse conditions.

Find out more and register here!