April 19, 2016
The last blog covered why many of us have knee problems. I'll be going over this in a more extensive manner on a future blog or article but it is a great starting point to experiment with exercises I showed to get your glutes more engaged during your tennis playing. Fortunately, not all injuries are that complex, especially with the forearm. Many small tweaks can do a world of change on your game. I will go over the different strategies to help alleviate pain in the forearm but before I do, let's dive into the cause of tennis elbow. After all, without knowing why you have the pain in the first place will not allow you to fully recover from it.
The Root of the Problem
Tennis elbow is inappropriately labeled in my opinion. It's related more with the forearm of your dominate hand. When you are constantly contracting your forearm for a long period of time, your forearm gets overused. Many believe that tennis elbow is part of the game where we have to compensate for the injury with arm bands or physical therapy. Think of it like this, why do professionals that play way more than us hardly ever get tennis elbow? Something is missing. Here are the reasonings. See if any of these are the perpetrator of your tennis elbow. Remember, tennis elbow happens after a long period of neglect so even if you do not have it right now, see below if you can make some changes to avoid the injury in the future.
Fix through a smaller grip
To put it in perspective, Rafael Nadal's grip size is 4 1/4. The reason being is that he can swing his racquet with a lot more head speed with a smaller grip to create the spin needed to control the ball. This is a bit extreme for most of us but the idea is simple. A larger grip size forces you to put more effort into gripping the racquet for control. I recommend your fingers to be able to almost wrap themselves all the way around the grip. A small gap is ideal. Check what yours looks like and you may need to get a smaller grip sized racquet. Unfortunately, you cannot make a grip size smaller (unless you take off the overripe, but that won't reduce by that much).
Fix through a lower tension
Leander Paes has been one of the top doubles players in the world for decades. He was quoted saying that a lower tension has added years to his game, meaning it puts less strain on his arm and shoulder to allow him to play competitively for a longer period of time. Try reducing your string tension by a few pounds the next time you restring it. Check out my old blog on strings to use for your racquet.
Fix through relaxing
When ever I do lessons for players that are relatively new to the game, I find it hard for that player to be able to relax with their grip. Rightfully so too, with all of the thoughts going in their head as they are trying to hit the ball :) Try to be aware of this though so you can start programming yourself to not only grip the racquet lightly when you are waiting for the ball to come to you but to gently squeeze the racquet when you are swinging at the ball. Remember, it is a stomach and leg workout, not an arm workout!
Fix through form
If someone is suffering from tennis elbow, I immediately look at their forehand and then their serve. The backhand is 99% of the time not the culprit. The reason being is that their are two hands on the racquet (usually), creating less strain on the dominate hand but more importantly, you naturally turn your shoulders and rotate through the ball rather than arming the ball like many do on the forehand and serve. Try to work on looking over your non dominate shoulder on the forehand before you hit the ball, which makes you turn and use the stronger parts of your body rather than just your arm. Same idea on the serve. Keep your non dominate hand up longer when you serve so that it comes down when your dominate hand with the racquet comes up to make contact with the ball. This will allow a shoulder rotation and keep strain off of your arm.