Andy Murray has returned to action at Queen’s Club after injury with the aim of improving his fitness for the eagerly anticipated tournament, Wimbledon.
Tennis is the third most popular sport in the UK, and is played by millions worldwide. There’s likely going to be a boom in the number of recreational players in our parks and tennis clubs when Wimbledon starts in July.
Below, The London Clinic’s Physiotherapy and Dietetics teams share their expert knowledge about the benefits of tennis and tips to reduce the risk of injury, so everyone can enjoy their strawberries and cream, pain-free!
Is playing tennis good for people's health?
The benefits of tennis are enormous! One hour of tennis uses all the muscles in your body, burning between 300 and 400 calories. This improves heart health, lung health and can even help reduce the risk of different cancers.
What are the most common injuries associated with tennis?
It’s important not to overdo it if you’re not used to playing regularly. Please take time to rest or reduce the hours you play a week in order to allow injuries to heal properly, avoiding a niggling injury becoming worse.
"Tennis elbow" is the most common upper limb injury in tennis (clinically known as tendinitis or tendinopathy of the elbow). This injury can go on to cause significant pain in the arm, even when carrying out normal daily tasks.
Evidence shows that tendons do not respond well to "too much, too fast, too soon," which is a common mistake many people make when taking up a new sport, such as tennis. It’s sensible to start a slow, gentle tennis regime and gradually increase the intensity or time played over a number of weeks. While it’s difficult to judge, it’s generally accepted you can safely increase the load to the body by about 10% every week.
Spinal stress fractures can occur within the vertebral bones of the spine. These can be relatively common in tennis due to the repetitive nature of extending and twisting the back as we serve or reach for fast moving balls.
Evidence shows that improving your core stability reduces the risk of sustaining a stress fracture in the spine. A great way to do this alongside your tennis is to engage in other activities such a swimming, pilates or yoga classes. Our physiotherapy team are available to create a schedule to fit people’s individual fitness needs.
Another common injury site in the shoulder is the tendons that attach these muscles to the upper arm. The rotator cuff muscles are a small group of muscles, situated close to the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder that provide stability.
With tennis players it is important to work on flexibility, strength and endurance of the shoulder muscles. A physiotherapist can help with specific targeted exercise for all issues including posture, scapular stability, rotator cuff strength, posterior capsular tightness (if present), and core stability, along with sport specific exercises.
What equipment is best for recreational tennis players?
It’s important to wear good tennis shoes with good support to prevent ankle injuries. But beware of blisters if you spend too long in your new shoes.
Having the right fit of tennis racquet, including the correct grip size and string tension can minimize the stresses placed on your wrists, elbow and shoulders. Wooden racquets from the loft are NOT good for your wrists and elbows.
If you do have problems, please book in with our specialist team here by contacting us on +44 (0) 20 7616 7651 or by email at email@example.com.
Is warming up important for the body?
Yes! Warming up is a simple thing, and so often done incredibly badly, or even not at all. Everyone should warm-up to avoid injuries such as muscle strains. Just start slow, with small shots and gradually raise your heart rate with small games and drills before you ease into a game. Doing this is FAR better than rushing to the court, flying into a service game and then pulling a muscle.
How long should someone play tennis for?
It’s easy to over-do things - the weather’s great, you’ve got all your friends with you, you’re having a fantastic time - but you’ll regret it in the morning if you stay on court too long! Over-exertion is the most common cause for injury. The body needs to rest between matches to stay at any level of performance. Do the same as you would with the gym and mix in both high and low intensity sessions, ensuring adequate rest days for good recovery.
How much should I drink when playing tennis?
We all know it, but many of us forget to drink enough fluid when we’re exercising. Moderate to high intensity tennis will significantly increase fluid loss through sweating. The general rule is that you will need approximately 150 mls of fluid every 15 mins to maintain optimal hydration.
For this type of high intensity exercise that lasts more than one hour, isotonic drinks that contain some simple sugars and salt are better than water at replacing the extra fluid lost as sweat.
What should I eat?
An essential part of helping your body rebuild once you’ve exhausted it is to eat the right things afterwards. Exercising muscles need carbohydrate in the form of glycogen as their main source of fuel.
Glycogen is depleted during long intervals of high intensity exercise and needs to be topped up on a regular basis. The best way to optimise glycogen level post exercise is to ensure you have a low fat, high-carbohydrate snack or a light meal 60 - 90 mins before exercise begins and within 30 minutes of stopping. A glass of milk is a top tip for replacing both carbohydrate and protein post work out.
To find out more information about our physiotherapy team and the services they provide, telephone +44 (0) 20 7616 7651 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any views expressed in this article are those of the featured specialist(s) and should not be considered to be the views or official policy of The London Clinic.