| By Erik Scharf

Injury prevention in tennis is vital for all ages and all levels. The inherent repetitive motions in tennis can cause injuries and imbalances in professionals, juniors and adults just looking for some weekly exercise.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a complete physical activity program consists of four components: Strength training, cardio, balance and flexibility. In tennis, the most physically demanding stroke is the serve. The sheer volume of serving and overheads while training or competing necessitates a muscle strengthen regimen to avoid injury. Lateral deltoid raises, latissimus dorsi pull downs, pull-ups, seated or upright rows and wrist curls (palms up and palms down) are some exercises which target the rotator cuff, scapular and elbow. Torque or the forces generated by twisting and turning, is also an intrinsic component of tennis. Torque induced stress on the lower back requires core strengthening exercises as a preventive measure against lower back injury. Exercise modalities such as yoga and Pilates develop core strength in addition to enhancing balance and flexibility.

Dynamic stretching is an essential activity to loosen one’s body before hitting the first tennis ball. Static stretching is strongly beneficial after exercising since the muscles are warm. However, static stretching is strongly contraindicated for cold muscles. Elastic resistance provides dual benefits for muscles; increased strength and flexibility.

Tennis is a weight-bearing sport, whereby compressive forces exert significance stress on the musculoskeletal system. Scientific research has demonstrated that weight training increases both muscle density and bone density. Weight training will enable one’s body to absorb and dissipate impact more easily. The knees are also subject to considerable amounts of compressive forces. Strengthening the surrounding leg muscle is critical to injury prevention. Exercises which target muscles surrounding the knees include leg curls, leg extensions and leg presses and can be performed using machines.

Nutrition and hydration also play a pivotal role in injury prevention. An intake of 20-25 grams of protein in addition to electrolyte supplemented water within 30-45 minutes after exercising is an optimal time frame for aiding the recovery and cellular rebuilding processes. The consumption of protein more than one hour after exercise curtails the recovery and rebuilding processes.

The incorporation of a complete physical training program complemented with the appropriate nutritional components will enable one to thoroughly enjoy tennis—the sport for a lifetime.