When I was younger, I had no idea the human body was so fragile. How can tennis be so demanding? It’s really not until you begin to develop some skills. Ironic, isn’t it. The better you are, the harder it is on the body. When you watch the pros, they appear to breaking the biological laws of physical movement. But have you noticed that some pros seem to disappear for while, and then all of a sudden they’re back on top. This is usually due to injury. Something happens to a wrist, ankle, back, or shoulder. It could be a thousand different things. Other than an accident on the court, like tripping and falling, what causes injuries? Sure, there’s a lot mumbo jumbo in describing the pulling of a muscle, or the tearing of a tendon. But what it all boils down to is an imbalance in your training. During the weeks of training leading up to your competitive season, you probably singled out specific muscles while ignoring others. If you’re using too much weight, stay away from the bench presses, leg presses, and bicep curls that can lead to an imbalance of muscle development. In short, isolating muscles can create good looks in the mirror, but when one group of muscles is getting overworked, it creates a recipe for disaster. An overworked muscle creates inefficiency causing another muscle to pick up the slack. All tendons, ligaments and muscles have their limitations. Get with a trainer and ask him or her to help you set up a plan to work all of you muscles equally.
In order to keep yourself on the court and off the sidelines, it’s important to take care of your body. When it comes to minor strains or a slight tweak, don’t ignore it and challenge your body’s limits. Doing this could push you right off the courts and on the sidelines. Areas like the shoulders, elbows, hip, knees, wrists, lower back, ankles and feet, among other body parts; are put to the test in the sort of total-body workout that tennis provides and demands. Make it a point to take care of each and every part and part area. If you think you may have an injury, don’t fool around, if you have the expertise in treating injuries, treat it, if not, see a doctor.
The type of injury that is most common is the overuse injury. Stresses on the upper body are caused by the repetitive nature of stroke production. The movements involved with ball striking involve constant turning and twisting at the torso and aggressive manipulation of the arms and shoulders before during and after impact with the ball. With all of this going on, injuries are bound to happen, especially if your swing pattern and stroke production are not technically sound. Improper form can lead to injuries like tennis elbow and shoulder pain. While conditioning is important, regardless of the level of fitness, injury can occur if a player does not use the proper biomechanical motion in play. If you are struggling with a certain stroke, take some lessons from a certified instructor to learn the proper technique to avoid injury.
Lower-body injuries in tennis are commonly caused by the stress of rapid starting, stopping and change of direction. The hip and knee are prone to “wear and tear” injuries, resulting from quick and sudden movements. Rapid direction changes can make a tennis player more susceptible to ankle sprains, which often result from rolling over the ankle.
It’s important to do your training and conditioning off the court in order to make sure that once you’re on the court, you’re prepared to go the distance.
Being well prepared for your practice or competition with more than adequate physical conditioning is the best way to avoid injuries.
Perhaps the most important action you can take to prevent injury in tennis is engaging in a good warm-up before playing. Warming up and stretching will increase the ability of your muscles to create more power and strength, and prevent potential injury.
Steven White is the author of…
Teaching Tennis: Protocol for Instructors