SI Vault
 
GETTING THE ELBOW IS A PAIN
James Lipscomb
June 05, 1967
The agony of tennis elbow can force a player out of his favorite doubles game for a month, a year or forever. There are many recommended cures, some medical, some medieval, and a few that actually have been known to work
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 05, 1967

Getting The Elbow Is A Pain

The agony of tennis elbow can force a player out of his favorite doubles game for a month, a year or forever. There are many recommended cures, some medical, some medieval, and a few that actually have been known to work

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

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 inappropriate.

Time: Sunday noon for weekly doubles with friends.

Place: Tennis 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 chagrin.

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 match.

Recommended 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 the shot."

"I wouldn't 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 way."

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.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8