By Kerensa McKie, Chartered Physiotherapist at Physio & Therapies Ltd, Todmorden.
Yes, it is that time of year again… the sun is out, Wimbledon is on the TV and fine weather players are blowing the dust off their tennis rackets! So, it comes as no surprise that the tennis related injuries have started to appear at Physio & Therapies.
Like any physical activity you need to plan ahead and get fit for the season, this means starting with general fitness and then adding some specific tennis activities and exercises. Many issues with racket sports can be negated by making sure you get your body ready for the increased level of activity 6 weeks or more before the season starts. However, there are still things you can do if you are better at enthusiasm than planning!
- Make sure the racket you use is the best one you can afford for the level you play at. If you only have knock about game once or twice a month this isn’t so important but the better, harder and more often you play the more important a good racket becomes. These days with all sorts of fancy materials rackets are lighter, absorb more shock and last far longer than the old wooden ones I remember from my childhood.
- Ensure the hand grip fits your hand. This is especially important as if the grip is far too small or large you will strain your arm muscles holding the racket. As you hit the ball the force in the arm can lead to things like tennis elbow, wrist or shoulder injuries. AND it affects your shots! A good rule of thumb is when you hold the racket the tips of your fingers should have about the width of your index finger between them and the base of your thumb. You can add grip tape if it is slightly too small or if you’re between sizes go for the smaller size and add over wrap tape or get the pro shop to add a thicker handle sleeve so you get your ideal size.
- Try to play from your legs. Tennis is a sport of leg power. Watch any top tennis player and look at the size of their thighs! The power up from the legs through the body is what hits the ball NOT, whacking it hard with the arm and shoulder muscles. If you do no other prep for the season but build up strong legs you will help prevent a lot of shoulder and arm injuries.
- Work on getting good rotation through your ribs. The power comes from the legs but the ability to transfer the power from the legs to the racket happens in the trunk. As they go to hit the ball good players rotate their upper body away from the ball before they rotate the upper body towards the ball, then as they connect with the ball they keep rotating so all power transfers into the rotating movement and Wham! the ball is off the racket heading back over the net.
- Spend time making sure your serve is good. A lot of research has been done on shoulder pains and leg injury in tennis pros. This research shows that poor serve is the main cause of what has been nick-named ‘thigh strap’ syndrome. These are the players coming onto the court with a band of tape round the thigh of the leg opposite to the hand they hold the racket. It is caused because they have poor power from the back leg into the serve. They then overload the front leg and injury occurs, hence the taped leg muscles. Another group doing the same poor serve will over load the shoulder instead and will constantly be struggling with shoulder pain. To improve your serve have a few lessons with a coach. Video can also help, get out the phone and get a friend to video a few serves. Do you stand with one foot behind the other? As you throw the ball up to serve do you bend at the knees? If you are not then you are storing up trouble if you don’t have problems already.
Here, at Physio and Therapies Ltd, we get a lot of racket sport players who are struggling with pains or who are thinking of giving up the sport who we then treat and get back to fitness, but prevention is always better than cure.
If you are struggling with injury remember, prompt treatment of an acute injury, the right advice and identifying why you are hurt will enable you to continue playing for many years to come. Our therapists are all experts on diagnosing, treating and most importantly preventing injury. We are always happy to help when you’re hurting but why not come and see us for a special PRE-Hab racket sports assessment. We can help you identify and fix an injury before it occurs! Call our team on 01706 819464 to book your assessment.