Tennis Elbow in Children

What is tennis elbow in a child?

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful issue caused by overuse. The tendons that join the forearm muscles to the outside part of the elbow get inflamed or damaged. This is usually caused by repeated use of those muscles.

What causes tennis elbow in a child?

Tennis elbow is not common in children or teens. Tennis elbow is usually caused by repetitive activities that extend or twist the wrist. In children, the most common cause is playing tennis or another racquet sport. Incorrect form while playing can lead to it.

Which children are at risk for tennis elbow?

A child who plays tennis or other racquet sports is more at risk for this condition.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow in a child?

Each child may feel symptoms a bit differently. But below are the most common symptoms of tennis elbow:

  • Pain, especially over the outside area of the elbow
  • Pain with wrist movement
  • Weak grip strength

Symptoms can be aggravated with forearm activity such as holding a racquet, using tools like a screwdriver or wrench, or shaking hands.

These symptoms may seem like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is tennis elbow diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider can diagnose tennis elbow with a physical exam. During the exam, he or she may ask about your child’s health history. Your child may or may not need X-rays.

How is tennis elbow treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment may include:

  • Rest from playing tennis or the activity that caused the injury
  • Ice packs on the elbow
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • An elbow strap
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen

What can I do to prevent tennis elbow in my child?

You can help your child prevent tennis elbow. Here are some tips:

  • Have your child do warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after tennis play. Be sure he or she stretches the muscles in the arm.
  • Choose the proper-sized tennis equipment for your child. Racquet handles and heads that are too big or too small can put more stress on the elbow. So can strings that are too tight or too loose.
  • Talk with your child’s coach about your child’s technique. Your child may need to learn new ways to play so that he or she does not put repeated stress on the joints.

Key points about tennis elbow in a child

  • Tennis elbow is a repetitive stress injury. It happens when the muscles and tendons in the elbow area are torn or damaged.
  • It's caused by repetitive activities that extend the wrist. In children, the most common cause is playing tennis or other racquet sports.
  • The main symptom is pain over the outside area of the elbow.
  • Treatments include rest, ice packs, and pain medicine.
  • Your child can prevent tennis elbow by using proper-sized equipment and practicing proper technique.
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