***Ben Armstrong [BSc Biology, MHSc Health Promotion], Coach 3, Club Pro 2, Tennis Canada Coach of the Year and coach of Sharon Fichman [WTA tour player and Fed Cup team member], Dominique Harmath [recent National Champion and player for Rice University] and many others, is the Tennis Director at Toronto Tennis City for the ACE Tennis program. Should you have any questions, please contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org***
Injuries can be classified as either chronic or acute. There are basically two types of injuries to tennis players: overuse (chronic) and acute trauma. Both types occur in tennis players.
Trauma injuries include sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations and often occur suddenly during activity. These types of injuries are difficult to avoid. However, the likelihood of these happening can be can be diminished significantly if an athlete has: (i.) proper medical screening with a medical team; (ii.) a personalized strength and conditioning plan; and (iii.) proper technical tennis coaching.
As a player develops, and at the pro level, overuse injuries can occur. Often, these result from one area of the body being used too much, which can happen when playing tennis for many hours each day over an extended period of weeks and months. Of particular concern are younger players whose bodies are not yet ready for the demands of playing tennis for hours on end. Players, trainers and coaches should all be aware of the symptoms (swelling, pain or aches while performing and/or at rest) associated with most chronic tennis injuries. A fully integrated long-term plan with periodization, and a team of coaches, physical trainer and doctors, can work together to ensure the athlete enjoys long-term health and proper development.
Many overuse injuries can be avoided by effective planning and training (periodization) and by carefully listening to the athlete’s body. Planned rest, participating in other sports (even recreationally), and varying the amount of tennis training can be planned in the periodization of an annual plan. Also, if action is taken immediately at the first sign of an injury, it may be avoided. An exam by a medical team can be a starting point for an athlete’s annual plan.
Technique can play a role in overuse injures as well. Each player should have a long-term technical development plan to not only develop their potential but minimize overuse injuries. Biomechanical analysis can be used to examine a player’s technique on a certain stroke and to identify areas of concern. Proper strength training and conditioning can also be valuable in preventing chronic injuries in a tennis player.
Over an athlete’s lifetime, injuries are likely to happen. Proper training, medical supervision, prevention and early diagnosis can minimize the frequency and severity of injuries. However, attitudes of the athlete, parents and coach, and resulting actions, can affect the recovery time and onset of future injuries.
The ITF website has a plethora of information on these subjects if you are interested in learning more. I wish you a lifetime of health in tennis!