Summer is here! Gorgeous sunshine, elevated moods, beautiful and longer days.. what more do you need?! Unless, of course, this time of year also means playing tennis whenever you can. It’s been nearly 3 weeks now of sunshine and bliss and we have noticed every tennis court in Vancouver in use! This is so amazing and we are thrilled to see players out there exercising and enjoying themselves.
We have compiled this blog about common tennis injuries, what parts of your body are being utilized when playing, and what are some of the best stretches to perform before and after your match. Hopefully this will help you prevent injuries while playing tennis, aid with any existing ones, and help keep you on top of your game!
Anatomy of Tennis
Here is a short overview of tennis and what muscles are mainly involved. Tennis is a fast paced sport making extensive use of both the upper and lower extremities. It requires hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and keen agility. Cardiovascular endurance and significant demands on the musculoskeletal system are both placed on the body during a game of tennis.
Muscles to stretch and condition…
▪ Leg Muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles)
▪ Chest and upper body: pectoralis muscles, latissimus dorsi, and deltoids
▪ Shoulder and arm muscles: rotator cuff, biceps, and triceps
▪ Muscles of the forearm and hand
▪ Lower back muscles: Spinal Erectors and the deep core muscles (multifidus and rotators)
▪ Abdominal muscles: rectus abdominis, internal and external abdominal obliques
▪ Neck muscles: neck extensor and flexors, levator muscle
Strength training and flexibility exercises targeting all of the above areas are essential for competitive players. Tennis players are subject to a wide range of injuries, falling into the broad categories of “acute” and “overuse”.
▪ Rotator cuff tendonitis
▪ Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
▪ Strains and sprains of the wrist
▪ Anterior (front) knee pain frequently involving the knee cap
▪ Calf strains
▪ Achilles tendon injuries
▪ Tennis toe
So what kind of stretching should you do?
STATIC stretching! These are performed by extending a muscle until you feel tension and holding it for 45 ‘Mississippi’ seconds. Research has demonstrated static stretching performed after an activity is often more important to overall athletic performance over time than when done before exercise. My adage has always been to “stretch prior to activity to prevent injury and stretch after to enhance performance!”
But first… the warm up:
▪ Jumping Jacks
▪ Arm circles
▪ Stretch your posterior chain muscles (low back, hamstrings, calves, etc) –extend your body into a downward dog pose.
▪ Stretch out your leg adductors- sit on the ground with one leg extended and the other leg bent with the sole of your foot near your extended inner thigh. Lean forward over your legs and breathe deep into your stomach. You should feel a stretch on the inside of the extended leg.
Hamstring and groin strains are common in tennis. Warming up the muscles first and then stretching them is an excellent way to prevent muscle strain while playing.
Our Top 3 Tennis Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury, and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking something as simple as stretching isn’t effective.
Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for tennis; there are a plethora more, but these are a great place to start.
1. Rotating Wrist Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
2. Yoga Mudra: This is a great stretch for the anterior shoulder, bicep, pectoralis, and back. Once seated on your heels, exhale, place your arms behind your back, and interlace the fingers together. Draw the shoulders away from the ears and squeeze the shoulder blades together to press out through the sternum. Inhale and arch the chest up towards the ceiling. Keep the chest open as you exhale and hinge at the hips, lowering the forehead down to the floor (optional). Lift the arms up as high as you can keeping the palms press together if possible.
3. Kneeling Heel-down Achilles Stretch: Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward.
Have a great match!