Back Pain Prevention in Tennis: The Benefits of Exercise and Conditioning
Tennis is an energetic sport that doubles as vigorous aerobic activity.
It enhances physical agility as well as mental acuity. It’s an amazing workout for the entire body. However, it cannot be denied that it is quite physically demanding. It places considerable strain on the body, especially the lower back. Moreover, it requires powerful and rapid movements. Some moves require considerable twisting, extending, or bending of the body.
Injuries and back pain during tennis are highly likely without proper preparation of the body. This article will delve into the importance of exercise and conditioning in preventing back pain among tennis players.
Understanding the Prevalence of the Back Pain Issue in Tennis
A survey of 143 tennis players found that because of back problems 38% of the players missed at least one tournament. Additionally, according to a study, players with lower back pain had issues with abdominal endurance and muscle movements. It’s likely that lower back pain will affect performance even if a player were to join a match despite the pain.
Tennis can lead to or exacerbate lower back injuries. A variety of factors (associated with tennis) can cause lower back pain, such as postural abnormalities, repetitive motions, and muscle dysfunction (shortening or weakening of muscles/ imbalances).
During the serve, the combination of rotation, extension, and flexion of the back may also cause issues. Motions like the kick serve repeatedly put the spine through a hyperextension force. Such repeated movements can lead to overuse injuries such as spondylosis.
The power that a player infuses into the serves and volleys is not dispersed evenly throughout the body. This asymmetric distribution of force has the potential to cause painful sprains and strains. A proactive approach is the most helpful for preventing back pain and injuries.
The Role of Exercise
Exercise works as a preventive measure (or ‘prehab’) against backache and injuries. Increasing the strength of core muscles through exercises can help stabilize the spine and prevent excessive straining of intervertebral disks. It’s like providing a support corset to the spine.
Warm-up exercises are important before every match. It’s equally essential to go through a cool-down session after playing. Core exercises such as planks, crunches, and bridges will help build up strength and flexibility. Quadruped exercise (also known as bird dog exercise and the angry cat exercise (also known as camel position) also work wonders for the back. Stretching, yoga and other flexibility exercises will prove helpful for preventing muscle imbalances and improving the range of motion.
To strengthen and protect the back, players should perform abdominal and back exercises at least twice a week. It’s essential to get the body used to the additional exercises gradually. Another key point to remember is the maintenance of proper form while exercising, as incorrect form during abdominal and back exercises can aggravate back pain. Since the purpose of these exercises is to build and strengthen muscles, a higher intake of protein can accelerate and aid the process. Players should consider using whey isolate protein powders along with a balanced diet for maximum effectiveness.
The Benefits of Conditioning
While playing tennis, players have to hit, twist, turn, slide, and jump in different directions and planes of movement. Apart from this, the playing style of individual players and the court surface also impact the physical nature of the play and place great physical demands on the body of the player.
Trainers, coaches, and athletes need to assess and understand the biochemical, biomechanical, and physiological demands of the game as well as the current fitness level and specific weaknesses. A thorough understanding of the nuances will make it easier to design a suitable and customized conditioning program for the players. Here’s some guidance for priming the body for tennis:
Endurance Training: Endurance training reduces the likelihood of fatigue-related injuries. It is especially important in the case of players with complex energetic techniques. Apart from basic endurance training, players also need tennis-specific endurance training.
Cross Training: This type of training will prevent overuse injuries, improve overall fitness, and enhance performance. Engaging in enjoyable physical activities (other than tennis) can prevent burnout and enhance agility, coordination, motivation, and resilience.
Balance and Stability: Balance and stability training are vital for a sport like tennis, which requires quick changes in speed and direction. Such training will improve proprioception, enhance the control of body movements, and reduce the risk of falls.
Recovery and Rest: Anyone who wishes to improve or maintain performance on the court, must give rest and recovery as much importance as training. Rest and recovery are essential for preventing muscle imbalances. It’s important to schedule at least 1-2 days of rest into the weekly routine. Additionally, tennis players should try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Back pain prevention requires the right technique and form on the court, and exercise and conditioning off the court. A healthy back is the foundation of a successful tennis career. By developing core strength, improving flexibility, and incorporating conditioning in their training routine, tennis players can continue to excel in the sport and enjoy a long, injury-free career.
Like always, don’t forget to jump on to the TennisPAL app to stay up to date on tennis news, find groups of friends to play with, and get a virtual coach to help with your tennis game.