April 23, 2016
So far I have discussed 2 out of the 3 major injuries for tennis players. If you haven't looked yet, check out the last two blogs on protecting your knees and forearms from injuries related to tennis. Now I will focus on shoulders. This is the missing piece of an injury free player. To put it in perspective, a personal trainer once told me that, "if people took care of their hips and shoulders, I would be out of a business."
What makes the shoulder so susceptible to injury
The shoulder moves together as one entity. Meaning, as you swing a racquet with your right arm, the right shoulder will move forward with the swing while the left shoulder gets out of the way. This rotation is very important and is neglected in a lot of tennis players that have picked up the sport on their own. As mentioned in the previous blog, I have seen many players use solely their arm to swing at a ball, which puts not only a lot of strain on the forearm but also the shoulders. The problem with the movement that is supposed to happen in tennis is that it doesn't come natural for many players, making it hard to learn and creates a higher chance of poor form that can cause injury later on. Let's take a look at how this injury can be avoided.
Fixing with technique
'Just like fixing the forearm, I find that the backhand is a great example to show people how to keep their shoulders from being hurt. You naturally have to rotate your shoulders together as one, allowing for less strain and for your stronger muscles (such as your stomach) to be engaged. Try to copy this motion when you you hit your forehand or serve. Allow the right shoulder to take the place of where the left shoulder is on the serve and vice versa on the forehand (assuming you are right handed). To make this easier to picture, try to put your chin on your left shoulder as you get ready to hit a forehand. After your swing, your chin should be on your right shoulder now. This will help protect your shoulders from injury.
Fix with exercises
There are a number of good shoulder exercises. I have some shown below but will describe them in the pictures too. The main idea is to strengthen the muscles that keep your shoulders in place. If you see a tennis player that plays a lot, more than likely their shoulders are slumped forward, due to the repetitive forward motion that tennis is all about. Pinch your shoulder blade together as best as you can while doing the exercises below as well as when you are walking around. Being aware of your shoulders and posture will help prevent injury. Check out the exercises below for some ideas on maintaining injury free shoulders.
This is my favorite exercise. Draw the alphabet with your arm straight out as you hold on to a weight (2-8lbs is plenty). Switch hands every time you get tired to maintain motion. You will notice how much stronger your dominate shoulder is, especially since tennis is a one dimensional sport where you constantly use one side more than the other.
This is great for the rotator cuff. As the picture shows, keep your elbows up as you pivot with weights in your hand to work the rotator cuff. Maintain a very still posture as you do this. Use light weights on this as well.
Going out to your side with straight arms and weights in your arms. Go back down and then go straight ahead. Repeat until form cannot be maintained.
Videos are coming soon on this too. Keep a consistent routine of these exercises to keep your shoulders healthy throughout the tennis season!