| By Sophie Scott
Credit: Thinkstock Images

A physically active lifestyle is important for all age groups. Reasons to participate in sports, such as tennis are many, such as pleasure and relaxation, competition, socialization, maintenance and improvement of fitness and health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general, and in particular, coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

Tennis is one of the major global sports with more than 75 million participants worldwide from 200-plus countries that are directly affiliated with the International Tennis Federation (ITF). However, as with many other sports, playing tennis puts players at the risk of injury, which may lead to either time away from the sport or impairment in actual performance due to pain or limitation of movement. Identifying risk factors for injury and correcting them through a structured conditioning and training program can both reduce injury and improve overall performance and health.

Injuries are prevalent in both the adult and adolescent population. It has been shown that approximately eight percent of adolescents drop out of recreational sports activities each year due to injury. The pre-teen athletes are at a particular risk of sports injury due to high levels of exposure at a time of major physiological change. It is vital to develop effective measures for the prevention of injuries in young athletes.

Sports injuries result from a complex interaction of multiple risk factors and events, and injury prevention generally focuses on modification of risk factors: extrinsic factors, such as equipment, playing surfaces and load (hours and intensity of activity) and intrinsic factors such as fitness, flexibility and balance, previous injury and age.
The common types of injury sustained in most sports are as a result of overuse, rather than acute trauma. For non-competitive tennis players, improper or inadequate physical and technical training may be the cause of overuse injuries.

Common sports injuries

►Muscle strain (mild=common) e.g., calf strain
►Ligament strain (common) e.g., ankle
►Bone stress e.g., shin
►Tendon e.g., Achilles/shoulder–rotator cuff

Baseline musculoskeletal screening is commonly used in professional and other elite level sports environments to measure potential intrinsic injury risk factors, by identifying characteristics of the musculoskeletal system that may predispose an individual athlete to injury or identify compensations resulting from an injury that may predispose the athlete to further injury. Screening is promoted as an integral part of both an injury risk management strategy and a performance and wellness enhancement strategy, not only for the elite athlete, but also the recreational one as well.

Tennis involves the successful interaction of multiple parts of the musculoskeletal system through what is termed the “kinetic chain” in order to perform a functional movement pattern that will result in a single tennis shot. Efficient function, with maximum performance and minimal risk of injury, requires optimal activation of all the links of the kinetic chain.

Individuals seeking to reduce injury and improve their performance should seek a full-functional screening and assessment from a qualified practitioner. The results will provide invaluable information to the individual athlete and coach from which a unique conditioning training program can be designed—a program that will enable the individual to maximize potential and minimize injury and poor performance.

The conditioning program should consist of strength and conditioning training methods, such as resistance training and plyometrics, as well as cardiovascular fitness and recovery strategies.