April 16, 2016
Tennis is a very one dimensional sport where constant repetitive motion, if not watched carefully, can lead to chronic injuries on the court. The problem with this type of injury is that they take a lot of time to happen. It's not a tendon tearing or a bone breaking, it's a constant degradation of a part of your body. Let's take a look at what this means and how to prevent it.
How Does It Happen?
Join soreness, tendonitis, tennis elbow and other chronic injuries occur when parts of the body is compensating for other parts that are not working properly. The best examples in tennis come from the knees, forearms and shoulders. In this blog, I will cover the knee problems and then future blogs cover the forearms and shoulders.
The largest muscle of your body are your glutes, which are located in your rear. They get your hips moving and are the reason for explosive movements, which is exactly what we need to do in tennis. For most of us though, we do not use our glutes very much. In fact, our body often over uses our quads (front of the legs) to compensate for the lack of firing from the glutes. This puts a strain on your quads, which get tight (along with your IT band, which is on the side of your leg) and start pulling on your knee. The knee pain you often feel is from the overuse of the quads. Another reason the knee can be a problem area is the lack of hip flexibility. Try this right now. Stand up and try to squat. If your knee caps start moving forward as you do this, you have tight hips. This limits your ability to put your knees over your toes to allow minimum strain on your knees.
How to Fix Knee Problems
To get your glutes firing, try this simple exercise before you go out to play tennis. Put a band around your legs that is moderately tight. With your toes facing forward, get in a "ready" position as you would in tennis by bending your knees and widening your stance. Now shuffle your feet to one side for a few steps, keeping the tension on the bands the whole time and your upper body from moving. Go back the other way. You should feel your glutes start firing to get them activated while playing tennis. This will put less strain on your quads. Look for videos in "online instruction" soon on other exercises that can help. See below for a quick picture of it.
To increase the flexibility with your hips, sit down with your legs straight out in front of you. Now put your right leg at a 90 degree angle as it lays on top of your left leg. Slowly lift your left leg up now. You should feel tension in your right hip. Next, put a tennis ball or lacrosse ball under your right hip and lift yourself up to roll on it.