“The ideal attitude is to be physically loose and mentally tight” –Arthur Ashe
Throughout my lifetime I have participated and have become an avid fan of almost every sport. While each sport presents their unique characteristics that make it challenging, tennis to me provides the greatest marriage between physical athletic ability and mental fortitude. While the mental aspect must come each individual player, there are many tips that players at any level can utilize to improve the physical aspect of their games. We will focus primarily on pre/post-match tips that will help to keep you playing your favorite lifetime sport at a high level and even help foster more on court success. Just like anything, you play your best when you feel your best.
- Hydration- drink plenty of water, not only while playing. Start the morning of your prospective tennis match or practice and continue throughout playing.
- Sun Protection- Make sure if you are playing in warm areas (South Carolina!), utilize proper sun protection. This can be anything form sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and garments. Many major companies are now making breathable long sleeve shirts to protect players.
- Equipment- There is a wide variety of equipment to suit the individual needs of each player. Utilize braces, compression sleeves, kinesiotaping, etc. to reinforce joints that have been painful while playing (don’t forget to strengthen those areas in your off-court time to reduce dependency on equipment).
- Stretching- Make sure you are doing some type of warm up, never go out there cold. I prefer dynamic stretching (stretching while moving instead of static holds) and use of light resistance bands to increase blood flow and prepare the body to play.
Technique: There are a million different ways to hit a tennis ball, however one major technique shift has led to a decrease in the stereotype injury that has been associated with tennis over the years, lateral epicondylitis or “Tennis Elbow”. The shift in technique from utilization of a straight or extended elbow to a stroke utilizing a significant bend at the elbow during the backswing has significantly reduced the amount of tennis elbow that actually comes from playing tennis. Equipment can also lead to come of the aches and pains we as players feel on the court. Softer strings and more forgiving or flexible racquets can also decrease any post match arm soreness. If your anything in your arm is giving you trouble when you play, examine your technique and equipment. Your local tennis pro should be able to assist if needed.
- Hydration- Yep, keep hydrating. Even though you have stopped playing your body is still likely lacking the appropriate fluids. Hydrate post match to prevent post match cramps and speed up recovery for the next time you hit the court.
- Stretching- Post match is when I like to do my static (pull and hold stretching). I personal prefer 3 repetitions of 30 second holds but anything in that 90 second ballpark works to get a good post match stretch.
- Further recovery techniques- Utilization of ice (when you have a new pain, increase in pain, or swelling) after playing or heat (when you’re dealing with stiffness or normal post activity soreness) is a tried and true method for reducing post match symptoms. Taking it even further, many athletes at all levels are now using techniques such as cupping, dry needling, and IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization) to speed up recovery and allow for optimal performance each time they take the court.
Taking care of your body is one of the most important things as a tennis player because it then allows you to do the most important thing, HAVE FUN! Take some time to take care of yourself pre and post-match and you can continue to enjoy tennis as a fun way to stay physically active no matter your age or skill level.
Written by Andrew Kiser, DPT (Carolina Physical Therapy) and tennis pro (Spring Valley Country Club in Columbia, SC).