In our last post, we talked about the importance of getting your mind ready for the imminent return to tennis. That, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Once you start your tennis journey again, if you don’t take care of your body correctly, it can lead to nagging soft tissue or potential overuse injuries. Tennis is a sport that puts a lot of stress on your muscles and joints, particularly if you are playing on hard courts. When you take time off and you are not performing the very specific movements that tennis possesses, it is highly likely that your muscles, and even joints will be sore once you return. During this time, you are very susceptible to having certain areas of your body flare and become sore. This increases your chance of injury because you will tend to overcompensate for the affected areas.
After my first year of college tennis, my body and mind needed a break. I didn’t touch a tennis racquet or do any tennis movements for a month, and when I came back, I was as motivated as ever. My mind was ready to play hard and play for long hours, but my body was not. The first day back, I played for three hours, ran sprints and did a strength workout. After a week of doing this every day, my hips and lower back were on fire, and by the second week of playing, I was unable to serve due the pain in my back.
Tennis movements are very specific, and while tennis is one of the most fun and healthy sports to play, the proper precautions need to be taken. The hard surface of a tennis court puts a severe strain on our joints, with the hips taking the brunt of that strain. Our hips are the body’s foundation. Our lower body function is non-existent without fully working hips. Our hips support our spine (which holds our rib cage protecting the heart) and keep our body upright. The hips are one of the most important parts of our body, and as it pertains to tennis, it takes time for our hips to adjust to the rigors of a tennis court. Take it easy and progressively increase your tennis load over time is to protect your hips.
The lower back is another area that is put under tremendous strain when playing tennis. The serve is the most important shot in tennis, by a wide margin. When we serve, our lumbar spine is put through extreme extension, and if not prepared for it, doing too much can be very detrimental. It also ties in with our hips during the serve. If you are right-handed, you will jump and land on your left leg requiring balance and very localized strength. Tennis unfortunately is a sport that is very one side dominant. This fact is tested most during the serve as it puts acute stress on your opposite side hip and lower back. It is something to be mindful of when you do return.
When it comes to returning to the court, do not overdo the serving early, take your time and wait until your body has adjusted to the pounding of the harsh tennis court surface. Keep your eye out for my next post coming up as I will outline exactly what stretches you should be doing for specific injuries, warm up and cool down, injury prevention and much more.
Written by Koby Jansen of LYMBR Darien. Koby is a former D1 college tennis player at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Former #1 in the state of Queensland and #7 in Australia for his age group.