Is Your Body Ready for Tennis?
Tennis weather has finally reached London, and parks across the city are full of bright white tennis gear and the sound of rackets thwacking against balls. While I love to see enthusiasm for my favourite sport and get to help many of my clients improve their game, it also means that I’m going to be treating many tennis-related injuries.
Many such injuries can be avoided with caution, preparation and awareness of your body. Here’s my advice for being able to enjoy tennis this summer without hurting yourself.
No matter how nice the weather, don’t play too much too soon
In the lead up to summer, when the days get longer and warmer, people often go from playing one game of tennis a week, or none at all, to three or four games. This goes far beyond our guideline of no more than a 10% increase in activity from one week to the next, putting you at very high risk of tendon overload injuries such as rotator cuff tendinopathy, subacromial impingement, bursitis or a combination of the three.
As you get older, your risk of overloading is increased as your body will be recovering less quickly between games, while younger people are more likely to encounter overloading due to a lack of strength and stability in the joint and surrounding muscles.
This overloading accounts for far more tennis injuries than poor technique amongst both professionals (who would be loading up for competition training) and amateurs (who are taking advantage of the summer).
If someone has been playing the same game for years, even if their technique is no good, it’s unlikely that they’ll develop an injury because of it. However, if they suddenly ramp up the amount that they’re playing, even a professional-level technique won’t save them from overloading.
That’s not to say technique is entirely blameless for the tennis injuries I treat. A common source of acute trauma is a poor serving technique where too much force is generated by the shoulder. Your shoulder should only account for around 20% of the power generated by a serve, with the rest coming from uncoiling the legs and twisting the abdomen.
Your shoulders need strength, flexibility and stability
The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body, capable of moving the arm in wide arcs while generating enormous power. Because it is able to do so much, a healthy and capable shoulder requires a balanced combination of strength, flexibility and stability. Strength to generate enough power for movement, flexibility to enable a full range of movement and stability to keep shoulder muscles in optimal position while also protecting the joint from excessive forces.
As so much of tennis depends upon having a full and powerful range of motion in the shoulder, it’s important to work on all aspects of your shoulder health. It’s almost impossible to accurately judge your strengths and weaknesses without professional help, so be sure to consult with a personal trainer or a physiotherapist if you plan on starting tennis or playing more of it this summer.
Don’t just work on your beach muscles
Gym-goers can easily fall into the trap of only working on their most visible muscles on the front of their body while ignoring those on their back. This leads to a muscle imbalance, which pulls the shoulder away from its ideal position, and can lead to impingement and irritation of the shoulder, and impede its ability to move and generate power correctly.
This is further compounded by desk work, which can cause tension and tightness in the pectoral muscles and lengthening and weakening of the upper back. It’s very difficult to achieve the correct balance without guidance, so I help many of my clients follow exercise programmes that ensure that the shoulder is equally supported from the back as it is from the front.
If you need help improving your technique, your fitness or treating an injury, feel free to book an appointment with me by contacting Physio London at email@example.com or 020 7093 3499