Tennis is terrific exercise, combining a great cardio workout along with usage of a wide variety of muscle groups.
Tennis is a relatively low-injury sport, much lower than soccer and golf. Injuries can be avoided with some smart preparation prior to playing and improved techniques.
The most common tennis injuries are:
- sprained ankles
- back pain or strain
- tennis elbow
- shoulder bursitis
- calf strain
To prevent each of these, consider doing the following:
To prevent sprained ankle, first avoid playing on slippery pavement or when you are really tired. If you are prone to twisting your ankle, considering wearing an ankle brace.
Back pain prevention is that old standby: stretching prior to playing and building up your core and abdominal muscles. Yoga and Pilates, situps and crunches all improve back and core strength. The worst thing you can do for your back is to go out on the court cold with no warm-up whatsoever. Be cognizant that serving places a lot of strain on the back because of the hyperextension (bending backwards) that is involved.
The infamous tennis elbow is caused mostly from repetitive motion, and often a racquet grip that is too tight. This causes the muscles that connect from the forearm to the humerus to be inflamed. Be sure that your tennis racket handle is not too small for you. Take frequent breaks when you play to bend your wrist up (the stop sign) and to bend your wrist down. You may benefit from a tennis elbow compression strap, but only on the advice of your health professional.
Shoulder Bursitis prevention requires that the tennis player pay particular attention to the muscles of the shoulder and really maintain good strength in all of the arm muscles. Lifting weights that target biceps, triceps, trapezius and scapula muscles all will benefit the tennis player. A variety of rowing-style exercises are also helpful. Serving the ball places the greatest strain on the shoulders, so it is advisable to utilize a coach and/or a physical therapist to evaluate your serve and make corrections in your mechanics.
Calf strain occurs when you are starting your motion, pushing off to the left, right, forward or backward to return a volley. Adequate nutrition before a match helps (carbohydrates seem to make the difference, too) as does hydration and monitoring your own fatigue level.