There are certain
advantages to growing old. You make more money than you did 10 years ago even
if you haven't saved any. The kids are paid for, you own a color television set
and everyone tells you that you look better with more weight and less hair.
Most important, your tennis game has never been sharper, because you have
learned to use your head. You can run a younger man into the court—after all,
he has nothing but strength and stamina. You have experience.
Then, just as you
feel you have your game and your life under control—disaster. You reach for a
backhand and a bolt of pain paralyzes your arm. You have always dismissed the
phrase "tennis elbow" as an old man's affliction, but suddenly you know
you have it, and just as suddenly you feel very old.
Tennis elbow is
an extremely painful ailment and deserves far more attention than medical
authorities have given it. To those afflicted with it, one of its most
frightening aspects is the contradictory advice they receive from their friends
and even from doctors. A report on my personal case history is not
Time: Sunday noon
for weekly doubles with friends.
court, Hartsdale, N.Y. I can report that I was playing particularly well this
day, smashing serves like Gonzalez, slicing back low backhands not too unworthy
of Rosewall and covering the court like Santana.
Onset: Suddenly a
particularly difficult shot to my backhand challenged all my court acumen and
agility. I lunged for it, blipped the ball just over the net, where it fell and
died, as my opponents, unable to reach it, looked at each other in helpless
Symptoms: It was
only then that I felt needles in my elbow, stinging, deep needles on the
outside of my arm as though someone had rapped the bone with a hammer. I
continued to play. The pain disappeared for the remainder of the match, but
after a shower it returned. I decided to ignore it and did not immediately seek
medical advice. The following week, however, when I again tried to play tennis,
my elbow hurt continuously and forced me to default in the middle of a
Treatments: As I sat dejectedly on the bench my partner and opponents offered
consolation and advice. "Nothing to worry about," said one opponent.
"I had it. Get yourself a shot of cortisone. Don't let them talk you into
any of that heat-lamp stuff or water therapy or junk. Just tell them you want
do that," said my partner. "Cortisone doesn't really solve anything. It
just numbs the pain. Then you'll go ahead and play with those sharp edges of
calcium cutting up the tissue. You can really damage the elbow that
I was beginning
to get scared. That was also the beginning of my investigation into the great
variety of "cures," most of them useless, which are commonly suggested
to victims of the disease.