Tips for improving your game
When muscles, tendons and bones are pushed past their limits, injuries occur.
Most people are aware of terms like tennis elbow or shoulder tendonitis; many of these tennis injuries are completely avoidable. The following will help you to think about some of the factors which could be affecting you and your game.
Your normal everyday posture determines your sporting potential, and by working on this first not only will your power increase, you will find it easier to improve your technique.
Remember, if you spend prolonged times in sitting, your joints and muscles will be stiff and a good warm up programme is even more important for you.
Most repetitive injuries can occur as a result of overuse or are due to poor technique, often because of excessive stress on the body structures. Every time the body is compromised more damage is done.
By enhancing the smoothness and ease of play, your technique will improve and the strain on your body will lessen. To help this, your physiotherapist can assess your movements and identify specific problems associated with lack of flexibility or reduced muscle control. In addition your local tennis coach can assist you with areas of your game to maximise good techniques.
Injury prevention strategies: Conditioning
Your body needs to be conditioned to be able to perform to the fast pace, repetitive motions and power of the game. What can you do to improve your conditioning?
- Develop muscle balance between all muscle groups especially around the shoulder (rotator cuff muscles). Your Physio will show you how to do this specifically for tennis.
- Develop 'core muscle' strength. Learn how to activate the muscles that provide stability in your back and shoulders. Your Physiotherapist and personal trainer will help you to do this effectively.
- Keep well hydrated prior to, during and after play.
- Replenish energy stores. Eat carbohydrates within the first hour after play (crackers, bagels, bananas). Energy drinks can help restore your energy.
This involves specific stretching and movements that prepare your body for tennis. It gears up your body and mind to play tennis well from the beginning of a game.
A gentle routine of jogging cycling or skipping for 5 minutes brings blood to the muscles so that they warm up effectively. Gentle repetition of movements such as arm swings, lunges and trunk rotation also loosen the body and prepare the joints to move.
This is very important to maintain and improve flexibility - however, never use a long static stretch.
Static stretching should be performed after practice, competition or during a cool down, or at home to loosen out muscles...but keep the stretches light and short.
Special consideration for younger players
Growth spurts can lead to serious injury, so Juniors need treatment quickly to prevent a loss of practice or playing time before you play as this can lead to muscle fatigue and injury.