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Avoiding Shoulder Injury This Tennis Season

Let’s do some quick math to start:

 

(past history of sport) + (current desk jockey career) + (public tennis courts) + (the human ability to ‘over-do’ it) = ????

 

Though this math seems a bit unorthodox, I’m sure you can extrapolate from the title that this can result in injury. Shoulder injuries, in particular, are common in overhead sports such as tennis, swimming, and baseball. When looking closely at the overhead serve in tennis, there is great complexity to it with involvement from your ENTIRE body. If one or more areas are lacking in strength or technique, often times we will see an increase in arm speed to maintain power with a resultant increased risk for shoulder injuries (among others… but lets focus here today).

 

Here are six tips to help keep you on the court this season:

Proper warm-up → we all know we need to do it, so just do it! This should be a full body warm-up and can include activity while NOT holding onto a tennis racket. When you are hitting balls, ensure you are using your legs and core to generate power and to progressively increase your racket speed. Don’t start your warm-up with big serves.

Build up your weekly tennis frequency → It’s great that you are active, but most people can’t go from zero days a week to multiple days a week of tennis without feeling sore or setting themselves up for future injury (consider tips 4 and 5 for options to stay active in the early season). On top of this, give yourself intermittent breaks to recover during the match to reduce the amount of time you play fatigued.  

Opt for ball placement over power → I’m definitely better at watching tennis than playing, and what I’ve learned is that a higher first serve percentage typically equates to winning the match. Bring down your serve speed, work on your ball placement, and save your shoulder.

Cross-training → This is a must, and there are a LOT of options. If I am being picky, I would suggest reducing the amount of prolonged gripping and overhead motion in your cross-training program. As a starting point, consider cycling and body weight exercises as a way to maintain aerobic endurance and strength.

Sport-specific training → This type of training is more relevant to the advanced tennis athlete, and where complexity of programming really takes shape. An example is provided here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuvFgyHILyY1

This exercise may look simple, but subtle errors in exercise technique will also appear when performing the tennis swing and serve. Add repetition with poor technique and this is where shoulder injuries flourish. Careers are spent building and implementing these programs, so I strongly advise a consultation with a physiotherapist or strength and conditioning specialist if you would like to explore this type of training

Consider taking a few tennis lessons → Humans are like cars. You need to change the oil, replace a few filters here and there, and even upgrade the sound system; I’ll let you decide what the tennis equivalents are to those.  Allow a critical eye to observe your game, fine-tune your swing, and help reduce your injury risk.

 

That’s it! I hope you are able to implement some of the tips above and keep yourself playing tennis throughout the season. If you have concerns regarding your swing, injury, or pains affecting your tennis game, coming in for a detailed biomechanical assessment will bring you one step closer to avoiding injury and improving your body’s tolerance of the sport. Highlighting and resolving biomechanical and strength deficits is something that can’t be done by reading this blog, so please use our expertise appropriately.

 

References:

  1. FifthSet International. 2012, Nov 21. Prepping like a Pro: Core Training for Tennis Players. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuvFgyHILyY

 

MANAGER OF CLINICAL SERVICES / REGISTERED PHYSIOTHERAPIST

Jordan is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physiotherapy program and has since been practicing in orthopaedic settings. He has developed an interest in sports physiotherapy through his many years as an athlete, participating in baseball, golf, snowboarding, and more recently rock-climbing, cycling, and strength training.  He is dedicated to improving mobility, optimizing function, and strengthening to help achieve your goals through the use of manual therapy and individualized exercise prescription. He also has additional training in acupuncture and sports taping.

 

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