Nancy P. Grimes, USPTA P1 Certified Tennis Professional
-BS in human movement/physical ed from BU.
What are some very common injuries that you see a lot on the court? Do you think these injuries could have been prevented? How?
Tennis is unique from a sports injury perspective, becasue it is a complex coordination activity. This means that the athlete utilizes both upper and lower body when performing the activity. Therefore, as a coach, I see a wide variety of injuries from tennis. Most are overuse injuries (playing too much and overusing the muscles and joints) rather than blunt trama, like you may have in football or soccer. Overuse injuries in tennis are often at joint locations, like the shoulder, elbow, wrist and knees. Many of these types of injuries can be prevented by warming up the muscles properly before playing, and doing a lot of stretching to maintain flexibility and good range of motion. Poor technique can also lead to injury and is correctible by learning from a qualified teaching professional.
In what motion in tennis that you find it is very important for the tennis player to have correct mechanics/motion so that it could help them avoid overuse or longterm tennis injuries?
serve - A very common injury that occurs from the overhand serving motion in tennis is rotator cuff injuries. Serving in tennis places a tremendous amount of strain on the internal rotator muscles (anterior/front area of the shoulder). Most tennis players have very strong internal shoulder rotator muscles from serving, however, an imbalance occurs and the back of the shoulder muscles (rotator cuff) as a result tend to be weak and are vulnerable to injury.
volley - The volley stroke in tennis is a very abbreviated stroke, and not one that commonly leads to injury. HOwever, if a player uses improper grips with the volley, they are often prone to wrist injury. This is easily corrected by placing the hand in a more beneficial position on the handle of the racquet to provide more strength in the wrist joint.
backhand - Improper mechanics on the one-handed backhand is one of the main culprits of tennis elbow. OFten players use the same grip as on the forehand stroke, and place the wrist and elbow in a very vulneralbe position. "Tennis elbow" refers to an imflammation of the tendon attaching to the lateral epicondyle of the ulna bone. The two handed backhand receives more support from the non-dominant hand throughout the motion, and less frequently results in elbow problems.
forehand - The forehand stroke is often considered most comfortable for players and does not result as much in injury.
leg - A common injury in tennis with the leg area are muscle pulls and strains, particularly of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscle. This is caused by the quick, explosive moments used by tennis players. A consistent, thorough stretching/flexibility program will aid in preventing this type of injury.
I know you do a lot of strength training classes. How do you find it helps you prevent injuries and play a better game?
I was very surprised at how much adding a strength training regiment to my program improved by performance. Tennis is primarily a "leg" sport, and I found that strengthening my legs improved my balance and quickness around the court. Furthermore, as a coach and instructor, I am often on the court for many consecutive hours, and strengthening my body has improved my teaching stamina.
What kind of strengthening programs do you usually make your young players do? What are the goals of these programs? You run a program for the advanced high school students and the strength training routine. What are the goals of some of these exercises?
When training young competitive players, I consider their age and physical size prior to adding strength training to their program. If the player has not fully matured physically, I encourage exercises that utilize the players own body weight, rather than using free wieghts or barbells. SInce tennis is a complex coordination sport that uses explosive movement for power, I emphasize squat/lunge exercises for the legs, abdominal exercises to strengthen the core, and push-ups or light medicine ball work to strengthen the shoulders.
High School players are often physically mature, and can graduate to squating exercises with free weights, or plyometric exercises. Plank position pushups are effective for chest and shoulder strengthening, along with more intense medicine ball throws. The emphasis is on explosive movement. Students participate in strength training exercies at least 3 times per week when not in season, and cut back to a maintainance schedule of maximum once a week when in season. If a player shows weakness or muscle imbalance, repetitions of exercises with lighter weights are emphasized to increase muscle endurance over explosiveness.
What is a very common, dangerous injury in tennis? Could it be prevented? How?
I believe the most common and dangerous injury in tennis is "tennis elbow". There are many views as to what actuallly causes tennis elbow. The most frequent cause I have seen is overuse and poor mechancis, resulting from improper grip. The best way to prevent the injury in my opinion is to learn the game from a knowledgable instructor and to avoid overdoing it! Many people try and "play through the pain" only to discover that they have harmed themselves by refusing to rest.