Fitness and Injury Prevention in Tennis

Tennis is a sport that requires not only skill, but also strength, speed and endurance.  A player’s overall fitness level plays a major role in how they perform on the court!

At NJTP, all our classes include fitness / cardio exercise components.  Why is this important?  For several reasons:

  • Building strength and conditioning enables you to hit harder, run faster and last longer on the court
  • Strength and flexibility training helps reduce the chance of muscle strains or other overuse-type injuries
  • Strengthening the smaller, supportive muscles helps joints to work properly and remain injury-free

Stretch It Out!

We often begin our classes with dynamic stretching exercises to loosen and warm up the major muscle groups.

Stretching is important in order to give muscles and joint tissue some flexibility before you start working them very hard during exercise.  This flexibility is what helps prevent you from overstretching muscles, tendons and ligaments.  In other words, stretching helps prevent soft-tissue injuries such as muscle strains and ligament sprains.

It’s also a good idea to spend time stretching after a tennis session or other workout.  This helps you loosen up muscles that may have gotten tight during your exercise session.

Wear the Right Shoes

Another important point for tennis players is: wear proper shoes!  Tennis players need shoes with good lateral (side) support, so you can change directions quickly and still maintain proper support for your ankles.

Running shoes typically do not have the support needed for the side-to-side movements in tennis. The wrong type of shoes can increase your risk of twisting an ankle or other injuries.

Some players, especially those with low arches (“flat feet”) or high arches, can benefit from proper orthotic foot supports.  These can reduce or eliminate foot pain and can save you from developing plantar fasciitis or other injuries.

There are a wide variety of over-the-counter orthotic foot supports available at running shoe stores or other sports stores, which you can try on and try in your own shoes. You can also consult with a podiatrist who can make customized orthotic inserts for you.

Take a Rest!

Incorporating rest days into your training schedule is important because muscles need time to heal and rebuild after each training session.  Rest is also important because it helps players avoid “burnout” due to playing too much.

Listen to Your Body

When an athlete starts to feel pain, often their instinct is to be tough and “play through the pain.”  But this is usually a bad idea, especially when the pain is in connective soft tissue such as a tendon or ligament.

If you experience any of the following while playing tennis (or any other workout), you should stop and assess what is wrong:

  • Pain that doesn’t get better after you have stopped playing or exercising
  • Persistent swelling or a new lump around a joint or muscle
  • Joint instability or sudden weakness
  • Any painful “pop” sound or feeling

These are signs that an injury may have happened, and you should rest and check with your doctor to find out if any treatment may be required.

Playing Multiple Sports

Some tennis players also play one or more other sports.  This can provide several kinds of benefits:

  • Cross-training in another sport can exercise different muscles than the muscles emphasized in tennis
  • Playing another sport can also reduce the chance of “burnout” while still giving the athlete the opportunity to exercise and have fun
  • Playing multiple sports can reduce the chances of overuse injury, especially in younger players (this is the “avoid early specialization” rule)

If you do play more than one sport, be careful not to overdo it!  Plan at least one day a week of rest in order to let your body recuperate and rebuild itself.

Also, for athletes who play more than one sport, we recommend only playing competitively in one sport at a time.  Choosing sports that have different competitive seasons is one way to do this; or, you can just play one sport competitively and the other sport just for fun and for cross-training.

Train to Avoid Injury

Tennis players can be more prone to certain types of acute (sudden) injuries, such as a knee or ankle sprain due to a sudden direction change.

And, tennis involves repetitive motions that can cause overuse injuries over a period of time, such as shoulder impingement and tennis elbow.

The good news is: a proper strength training routine can help reduce the chances of both acute and overuse injuries. For example:

These exercises help strengthen the muscles surrounding each joint, which helps keep the joint stable and in its proper alignment. And, the exercises help improve the ability of the muscles and tendons themselves to absorb impacts that occur while playing tennis.

For Further Reading

Injury Prevention for Youth Athletes

10 Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries in Kids and Teens

7 Common Injuries in Youth Sports and How Parents Can Help Prevent Them

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