Ask The Doc
The Role of the Biceps in Tennis
What is the bicep(s) and what is its role in tennis?
The bicep is a muscle in the upper arm that helps flex the elbow and supinate the forearm (rotate the forearm so that the palm faces up). At the elbow there is one tendon, while at the shoulder there are two tendons with one running along the front of the humeral head (ball of the shoulder). In the shoulder, the biceps play a role in stabilizing the humeral head (ball of shoulder) when the shoulder is brought into significant external rotation (while serving and getting the racquet from behind you up to strike the ball).
Biceps inflammation commonly improves with rest and stretching. Anti-inflammatories can be helpful, including steroid Dosepak or steroid injections. Eccentric strengthening (elongating the muscle and tendon while it is contracting) is one of the better ways to relieve symptoms. Additionally, taking stress off the biceps by improving scapular stability and rotator cuff strength can be achieved with exercise. Evaluating the mechanics of your serve and being mindful of the times that this area of the shoulder hurts, you can modify these activities to put less stress on the biceps.