Preventative maintenance is an important aspect for any athlete to focus on, tennis is no different. I truly believe that a majority of tennis injuries can be prevented by being intelligent about your practice/tournament schedule and by taking the time to take care of your body properly before you get hurt. This segment of The Tennis Player’s Guide to Greatness blog, “Preventative Maintenance,” we will be focusing on some general preventative maintenance rules that all tennis players should follow. If you can follow these three general rules to preventative maintenance you will be well on your way to avoiding some of the common injuries that can happen in tennis from overuse.
One Day Off a Week
The first and most important rule to follow in order to prevent overuse injuries from tennis is to take 1 day off every week. The biggest key is to TAKE ONE DAY OFF. This last sentence is truly important. When I say take a day off I mean you need to take it off completely… outside of stretching and a light walk you should be doing basically nothing. I get all sorts of questions about the 1 day off a week rule such as, “Can my son/daughter play their other sport on their day off or can they help with heavy chores on their day off? Remember, you should not be doing anything that puts stress on the most common tennis injuries; shoulders, wrists, back and ankles. So, anything that is putting unneeded stress on those four parts of the body you should not be doing. So no throwing the football/baseball on your day off or not doing more difficult yard work such as painting or staining the house. You should be most concerned about protecting your shoulder because these are the most common injuries that I see in tennis that can continuously hinder people throughout their careers. I have seen maybe players have shoulder injuries that stay with players for years.
What I recommend to do on your off day is something fun that you normally do not have time to fit into during your training and school work that needs to be completed during the week. This may include going shopping at the mall, going to the movies, hanging out with your friends. Think of your off day as the decicated time each week when you will have the ability to do something different outside of your training regiment.
Managing your Tournaments/Match Play
The second most important preventative maintenance technique that I highly recommend that players follow is managing your tournament schedule correctly. At On The Rise I highly recommend that you are playing between 1-2 tournaments a month. You do not want to play more than 2 in a month because all the serving that happens throughout a tournament places a high amount of strain on your body. When you are playing in a tournament it is quite easy to be on the court for 4 to 5 hours each day that you are playing. That means if you are playing 4 to 5 singles matches and 4 eight game doubles pro-sets you could easily rack up 12 - 15 hours of tennis between Friday and Sunday. All this tennis, that your body is most likely not used to places a ton of stress on your body. The biggest concern I always have is all the extra stress that is placed on a player’s shoulder throughout the event. Like I stated earlier once a player gets a shoulder injury that injury can easily remain with them for the remainder of their career.
The best thing a parent and player can do is to make a 2 to 3 month schedule surrounding the tournaments that they want to play in. I believe this is the best way to do things as if you are serious about getting better as a player your parents have to be on board with your goals. It takes the entire family to raise a great tennis player. If you can get your parents to sit down with you and create a 3 month tournament schedule you will be able to figure out what weekends are potentially busy with family activities and what weekends you are free to play in a tournament. In a later blog I will discuss the best way to set up your tournament schedule in order to improve as quickly as possible.
Complete Off Weeks:
The next general rule is that players need to take weeks completely off from tennis and other physical activities. Taking weeks completely off is a healthy way to allow players the time to mentally and physically restore from tennis. Tennis can be frustrating mentally and players need this time off to get away from all the pressure that is placed on them from the sport. Taking weeks off helps players avoid getting burnt out and gives the ever important shoulder time to rest. Notice how many times I have discussed the topic of shoulder maintenance in this one article. Protecting your shoulder is one of the most important things that you can do as a tennis player.
I recommend that you take a full seven days off from tennis 2 or 3 times a year. It depends on the player’s mental status during the time and how they have been doing physically throughout the year. For example, if a player has had a nagging injury a week off can do a lot of good for their health.The tricky thing with taking a week off is that everyone has to realize it takes 3 to 4 weeks for a player to get back to the level that they were playing at before the break. This means it is important to plan these around bigger tournaments in the area. For example a player should not take a week off two weeks prior to a big tournament. The best is if I know I have a big tournament coming up in 6 weeks and no “big” tournaments following the tournament is to take your week off after the tournament is finished. Remember taking time off is important for all tennis players you just have to do it intelligently because it takes time to get back the level you were playing at.
Conclusion: Not all injuries in tennis can be prevented because strange things happen on the court. However, I strongly believe that many tennis injuries from overuse can be prevented if you follow these three rules. Remember you need to protect your body because if you are not able to be on the tennis court due to an injury you are not going to be able to improve your tennis game. If you have any questions about these rules feel free to comment in the comment section below.