Physiotherapist Amy Shipperd Shares her Expertise on Tennis Injuries

With over 18  years’ experience as a player and coach, including two years competing in the US College Tennis circuit, WPPC Physiotherapist Amy Shipperd combines her understanding of tennis with her professional clinical expertise in her treatment of tennis and other acute sports injuries. In this article, Amy comments on tennis injuries and prevention:

Tennis is an extremely physically demanding sport requiring speed, agility, explosive power, aerobic endurance and the ability to react quickly.

The repetitive nature of tennis strokes can create muscular imbalances, which often result in injuries (Reid & Schneiker, 2008). The most common injuries in tennis players are the shoulder, back, elbow, hip and ankle (Ellenbecker, Pluim, Vivier & Sniteman, 2009).

Risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing an injury include:

  • Inadequate warm up
  • Poor technique
  • Insufficient rehabilitation from previous injuries
  • Sudden increase in training load
  • Incorrect equipment

It is estimated that amateur/casual tennis players suffer from approximately 1-3 injuries per year (Barber-Westin et al, 2010) with 77% of female players & 55% of male players reporting that recent injury kept them off the court for more than a week (Abrams et al, 2011).

As we’d all rather be spending as much time on the court as possible, it is important to address the above risk factors to reduce your risk of injury.  With the help of your physiotherapist, a screening assessment can be performed to identify your areas of weakness and develop a tailored exercise based preventative exercise program to help reduce your injury risk.

A poor warm up can be a risk factor for sustaining an injury. Evidence shows that static stretching can hinder performance in strength and power sports (Hough, Ross & Howatson, 2009). It is therefore common for professional players to complete a dynamic (active) warm up prior to play, which can be adapted by the casual player.

I have outlined below an example of a dynamic warm up that I used while playing US College Tennis, and still use in my coaching of players today.

Aerobic and Dynamic Stretching (10-15 minutes)

For the running drills outlined below the objective should be to progressively increase your intensity.

  • 5 laps jogging around the court whilst gradually increasing the pace

Working on one half of the court (from baseline to net) complete each exercise up and back

  • Low side stepping
  • Low cross over steps
  • High knee running
  • Buttock kicks
  • Hip opener hurdle walks
  • Walking lunges
  • Walking lunges with back rotation
  • Arm Swings
  • Leg swings
  • Light Theraband rotator cuff exercises

Directional Change/Lateral Movement – Working Up and down the doubles alleys

  • Split step into shadow swing FH volley, split step into shadow swing BH volley, split step into shadow swing smash. Repeat x 3
  • Split step into shadow swing FH groundstroke, split step into shadow swing BH groundstroke. Repeat x 3
  • Running drills through a ladder, or fast feet sets over/across the lines. Repeat x 3

Tennis specific skills (10 – 15 minutes)

  • At the net:

Begin at the net with 50-100x FH and BH mini volleys with a partner

  • At the Service Line:

Begin hitting half court groundstrokes with increasing the intensity of footwork.

  • Gradually work your way back to the baseline:

Continue groundstrokes both down the line and cross-court. Ensure every stroke used in the match is practiced in the warm up.

TENNIS AND THE KINETIC CHAIN:

Each shot in tennis requires input from the whole body, working like links in a chain. For example, the serve starts with energy passed from the ground, to the legs, to the trunk, to the arm and into the hand and through the racquet to hit the ball.

Optimum coordination (timing) of these body segments allows for efficient transfer of energy and power up through the body moving from one segment to the next. Each movement in the sequence builds upon the previous motion and they all contribute to the generation of racquet speed. (Elliott and Saviano, 2001; Elliott & Kilderry, 1983)

By improving technique, strength, dynamic balance, agility and aerobic fitness less stress will be placed upon the kinetic chain and therefore performance should be maximized and the risk of injury reduced (Barber-Westin et al, 2010)

For consultation with Physiotherapist Amy Shipperd on tennis or other acute sport injuries please contact WPPC reception on 9795 0668.