Playing injury free starts with an ounce of prevention

By the time this article gets to you, the clocks will have gone through the yearly "fall back," and the temperatures will likely be doing the same.

So, as our Lowcountry winter moves in, I thought it would be good idea to provide some info regarding the old "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" theory.

Tennis, being one of the most popular sports in the world, is a great way to stay fit, have fun and make new friends. Along with these benefits the risk for injury is pretty low compared to other sports. Unfortunately, injuries from playing tennis still happen, and their likelihood can increase during the cold weather season.

Common tennis injuries include sprains and strains to joints (ankle, knee, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and hips) and strained or pulled muscles and tendons (back, calves, thighs, Achilles.) Poor technique, failure to warm up before or cool down after play, previous injuries, and even playing too much (overuse) can all lead to possible problems.

Tennis requires physical attributes including power, speed, strength, endurance and coordination to name a few playing skills. All players, young and old, should have some type of conditioning and training to meet the demands of play and reduce the chances for injuries.

Here are 10 "ounces of prevention" (suggestions) before you take up the game or if you're already playing social or competitive tennis:

  • See your doctor for a check-up, especially if you're over 40 or haven't regularly exercised for a long period of time.
  • Take some lessons from a qualified coach to develop proper skills and correct technique.
  • Warm up and stretch before you play to improve joint range of motion and ligament elasticity to prevent muscular strain.
  • Cool down and stretch after play to assist with recovery. This is very important.
  • Always protect your skin and eyes from the sun - yes, even in winter! Wear a hat and sunglasses, and use sunscreen on exposed skin.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after play to stay hydrated - again, yes, even in winter.
  • Consult a qualified tennis coach, no matter what your level or rating, about individual training needs and development of skills and techniques that will help you play safe and smart.
  • Choosing the right playing equipment - racquets, strings, string tensions - and seeing that your gear is in good condition can also help prevent injuries.
  • Choose shoes carefully for the best fit for your individual foot type, the court surface you'll play on most often, and how many times a week you plan on playing. It's a good idea to have at least two pairs of shoes and switch them out each time you play.
  • Play when the weather and court conditions are right. If the courts get a little wet or slippery, consider playing another time or take extreme caution.

Here's to hoping these ounces of prevention give you tons of injury-free tennis throughout our cooler weather season. And remember, if you experience an ache or pain that doesn't go away, seek prompt treatment.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.

lwmarino@hotmail.com


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