Just when your game is starting to get somewhere you pickup an injury. That has to be one of the most frustrating things in the world, but it does not have to happen if you are careful and take preventative action.
Factors which predispose tennis players to injury
- Muscle weakness
- Strength asymmetry
- Pathological joint laxity
- Having poor flexibility
- Not completely recovering from previous injury
Common platform tennis injuries to be aware of
Due to the high speed that platform tennis is played, the jumping, quick turns, repetition of upper body / spine twists, legs and paddle arm, you can see why so many players pick up injuries playing platform tennis. So, due to the nature of the game, you can be predisposed to elbow, knee, shoulder, wrist, hip, spine and ankle injuries.
Tennis elbow is the most well known injury, however, you might be surprised to learn that it is actually the least common injury suffered by platform tennis players. As well as tennis elbow, some of the more common injuries are:
- Lower back injury
- Knee injury
- Shoulder injuries (rotator cuff)
- Wrist injuries
- Ankle injuries due to force or rolling of ankle (see our article on ankle injuries with tennis players)
- Tennis elbow
How common are injuries in platform tennis?
On average, according to the NCBI study, a player can expect about 2-3 injuries per one thousand hours of playing time. Most injuries do not require hospital treatment, but on average, for one hundred thousand players (100,000), thirty three would require some form of hospital treatment.
Ways you can reduce the risk of sustaining an injury
- Make sure you warm-up first. This includes a dynamic tennis specific warm-up
- Stretch after a thorough dynamic warm-up using correct technique
- Training all muscle groups for balance
- Create muscle balance
- Conduct tennis-specific training exercises
- Wear proper footwear
- Use appropriate racket
- Don’t use a paddle which is too heavy for your build/strength, as this may contribute to tennis elbow
Tennis specific stretches include
It is important to note that you should stretch out your muscles whilst they are still warm, so the best time to do this is after you have finished playing, before they have a chance to cool down. This is especially important if you have another match scheduled for the next day, as you do not want to feel stiff going in to the game, with muscles that feel tired and achey.
Time and time again, research studies have concluded that stretching after you have played, rather than before you play, has a great impact on your performance in the long run. This does not mean that stretching before you play is not important, as it is. Your muscles still need to warm up before you expose them to high impact movements, so stretching prior to picking up your paddle is also needed if you want to reduce the potential for injuries.
Below are eight of stretches which I always do after I have finished a match. You should try to do each of these for at least 1 minute, preferably 3 if you can.
- Abdominal stretch
- Standing groin stretch
- Calf / soleus stretch against a wall
- Hip internal rotator stretch
- Supine groin stretch
- Quadriceps stretch
- Achilles tendon stretch
- Hamstring stretch
Training tips to avoid platform tennis injuries
- Every tennis player must focus sufficient time on strengthening the abdominals and lower back (core)
- Flexibility training exhibits a learning curve so be sure to use correct technique
- Warm-up up to the point of sweating before commencing any stretching
- Use free weights to train extension, flexion and lateral motions which are all a part of the tennis game
- Address muscle groups used in tennis with specific stretches
- Exercise machines only training in one plane of motion
- A general or cross-training program will assist players but be sure to focus on tennis specific training programs
- Design a tennis-specific flexibility program that contributes to structural integrity of the joint
- Correct muscle imbalance
Tennis injury prevention tips when performing cardiovascular training
- Be aware of the surface
- Avoid excessive load on the body
- Use proper footwear
- Avoid training errors
- Be aware of excessive fatigue
- Doing too much hill running
- Environmental conditions such as extreme heat or cold
- Avoid poor technique
- Avoid excessive distances, not required for tennis players
Injury prevention tips when strength training
- Lift weights smoothly, not jerky
- Use proper lifting technique
- Keep weights close to body when lifting
- Always warm-up first
- Don’t use defective equipment
- Lift weights from a stabilized body position
- Don’t hold your breath while lifting
- Don’t twist body when lifting
- Finally, if you sustain a minor injury don’t ignore it! Trying to push through he training session could only aggravate the injury. Seek treatment and rest immediately.
We might all be predisposed to injuries whilst playing platform tennis, it is after all a high impact sport. But with a bit of planning and training for our bodies, we can be successful in minimising injuries and make sure we are back on court tomorrow.