It’s a tough and often painful way to earn a living – as evidenced at Wimbledon this year by Andy Murray hobbling out of the tournament on a dodgy hip, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands’s horrific knee-tearing fall and Novak Djokovic’s insurmountable elbow injury.
So it is with no little embarrassment that BBC tennis presenter Andrew Castle admits that the injury that almost cut short his playing days was not due to an accident on court, but because of some ill-advised showing off on his 12-year-old nephew’s hoverboard.
The drama unfolded, as it so often does, after several glasses of wine at a family New Year’s Eve party last year. Castle, 53, the former British No 1 turned TV host, explains: ‘There’s a technique to getting on and off a hoverboard, and I didn’t master it. After a few stumbles that left me on the concrete floor of our kitchen, my wife Sophia insisted I didn’t get on it again.’
BBC tennis presenter Andrew Castle went flying off a hoverboard and ruptured a ligament in his wrist
However, the lure of trying to tame the motorised board – a powered, two-wheeled device that is notoriously difficult to balance on – proved too much for his still-undimmed competitive spirit.
He says: ‘Several glasses of wine later, I thought, “I’ll just have another quick go.”
‘I went flying. The whole party stopped in its tracks because I hit the floor so hard. I went backwards and landed hard on my right wrist. I lay on the floor wondering how many bits I was in. I was in shock.’
Castle, who also hosts a London radio show, initially thought he had simply sprained his wrist.
But over the next two-and-a-half weeks the pain continued to keep him awake at night, while playing tennis – one of his regular opponents is former Prime Minister David Cameron – became increasingly difficult.
‘It was a dull ache. As a sportsman, I am used to hurting, so I did just try to carry on,’ he says. ‘But this was more than that. There was no power. I was trying to hit a forehand volley and I just couldn’t, I missed it by miles. It definitely wasn’t right. Like most men, the first thing I did was deny it.’
The former number one British player is pictured playing tennis in 1986. Castle, who also hosts a London radio show, initially thought he had simply sprained his wrist
At Sophia’s insistence, and five weeks after the accident, Castle finally went to his GP and after a thorough examination was immediately referred to hand and wrist surgeon Shamim Umarji at London’s St George’s Hospital, who diagnosed a ruptured ligament.
Castle says: ‘A day later I was in surgery because I was told there was no time to waste if this thing was to be fixed. It was scary, because I realised I might never play tennis again.’
The wrist joint is made up of eight bones that attach the lower ends of the arm bones – the radius and ulna – to the five major bones in the hand and multiple ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that give the joint stability and flexibility.
Castle had damaged the scapholunate ligament, which sits in the middle of the wrist. Some strains and minor tears – known as partial ruptures – may heal without treatment, but a complete ligament rupture usually requires surgery.
Ms Umarji says: ‘Andrew came to us at a late stage, after almost six weeks, so we couldn’t