Playing tennis, whether competitive or recreational, is a great way to stay fit. Since players are constantly moving and changing direction there is potential to cause strain on their bodies. Here are some tips about warming up, hydration and injury prevention.
Warm Up, Cool Down
Proper warm ups and cool downs help prevent injury and improve performance. Starting with light physical activity helps increase blood flow to the muscles to prepare them for increased demands. It is also important to begin with low intensity drills and progress throughout your practice.
These should become part of your daily routine when head out to the court:
- Always take 5-10 minutes for a dynamic warm up before you play.
- Stretch after you play to help maintain flexibility and promote optimal recovery.
- Stretch slowly and gently so it does not hurt. If you feel pain, start to back off.
Hydration is essential to our daily diet, especially in the warmer months. During exercise or activity our bodies cool off by sweating. When we sweat, we lose necessary water and electrolytes. If we do not replace these fluids we become dehydrated, making it more difficult to sweat and cool down. Prevention begins with understanding the causes of heat illnesses. And making sure to stay cool and hydrated during activity.
A number of factors can affect heat release and perspiration:
- Environment – air temperature, humidity and sun affect how our bodies can cool themselves
- Clothing – dark colors absorb heat; wearing a light colored hat is recommended
- Sun – direct exposure to the sun with no shade increases your core body temperature
- Age – children adjust to heat slower than adults
- Medicines – certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines impact your body’s natural reactions to heat and sun.
- Dehydration – if you have not had enough fluids, your body cannot cool itself through sweat
- Pre-activity hydration – athletes starting activities already dehydrated are at greater risk for injury
- Sunscreen- apply sunscreen often to help keep your body cool during long hot days
- Cool towel- keep a cool, wet towel in a small cooler and apply over your neck during change overs
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is one of the most common injuries in tennis. It causes pain over the outside of the elbow. It is a painful condition from overuse of the forearm muscles, specifically the wrist extensors. Players with a one handed backhand are more susceptible to pain because of increased stress on the dominant arm.
Here are a few ways to prevent tennis elbow:
- Strengthen your forearm muscles with exercises that bend and stretch your wrist.
- Wrist extension: Place the palm of your injured hand on a flat table. And place the uninjured hand over the back of your injured hand. Contract your muscles to lift your palm off of the table, resisting the upward movement of the injured hand with your uninjured hand.
- Wrist flexion: Place the palm of your injured hand flat on the table. Contract your muscles to press your palm into the top of the table.
- Warm up with gentle range of motion exercises before playing and stretching after.
- Pay attention to the technical components of your racquet, such as grip size, head size, and string tension.
- Wearing a tennis elbow strap can help reduce the pain associated with tennis elbow.
Chronic shoulder pain is also common in tennis players. The pain results from repetitive overhead motions, specifically from serving and overhead shots. These overuse injuries, such as an injury to the rotator cuff, are muscular in nature, and benefit from conservative management. Here are a few ways to prevent shoulder pain:
- Strengthen your shoulder using resistance bands or low resistance exercises with high amounts of reps.
- Stretch and foam roll to target problem areas that may be tight.
- Playing doubles will reduce your volume of serving and helps to build in breaks.
- Applying ice after activity can help limit swelling and decrease pain.
The low back is also a commonly injured area in tennis players. Tennis is a multi-directional sport. It incorporates bending the trunk forward and backwards, as well as side bending and rotation. Athletes who are less mobile in their spine or lack core strength are more prone to suffer from back pain. Here are a few tips to prevent low back injuries:
- Use proper form during play – using your legs and core for power instead of your back.
- Include some core and low back strengthening into your daily workouts.
- Set up a private lesson with a tennis pro who can check your form.
- Be sure to avoid overextension through your spine as you serve by adjusting your ball toss.
When to visit your doctor
An athlete should visit their doctor or sports medicine physician if symptoms persists for more than one week, despite rest and care measures. Athletes who play through pain may worsen an injury or prolong recovery. Pain can also prevent you from playing at the level you want to play at.
The orthopedic urgent care is open seven days a week, no appointment needed at TRIA’s locations in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Woodbury.