Movement For Life: Racquet Sports Guide

Racquet sports like tennis, racquetball, badminton, squash, and pickleball can be great fun, and also a life-long activity. With minimal equipment required, they are easy to get into, can be easily scaled to your ability, keep your mind sharp and engaged, and provide a wonderful social outlet. One of their unique benefits is that they require movement in multiple directions: from forward to back, side to side, and on the diagonal, to repeatedly challenge our balance and coordination.  The long and short of it is, these activities are healthy for both your body and mind, and can be a major contributor to your satisfaction and longevity, so it is important to develop strategies that will enable your play year in and out. 

Here are some ways to minimize risk of injury and get over pain and minor injuries before they cause you to stop participating:

Work Your Body Into “Racquet Shape”

Sports are movement specific. If you haven’t been playing racquet sports regularly, then get into an exercise program that prepares you to use those muscles and movements you need for the activity. You can use the sport itself for some of this IF you start with short periods of play or practice and increase the time played, intensity level, and frequency. Adequate recovery days are essential, not only for the pro, but also for the novice. We recommend having a day “off” in between sessions. While you can (and should!) still be active those days, just choose a different activity to allow your body to recover from the demands of the sport.

Maintain Flexibility

Repeated movements and muscle activation, while being a potential source of strength, can result in muscles feeling tight and sore. Self massage, active movements, and perhaps some stretching can help decrease soreness and stiffness.

Strengthen Foundational Muscles

As with most sports, tremendous power is generated from the core muscles of our torso and hips, and should be included as part of your strengthening routine. When training more specifically to racquet sports, extra attention should go into strengthening the muscles around the shoulder blade, which help to give a strong foundation for the rotator cuff muscles to work from. Additional strengthening for the forearms, wrists, and hands will help these tolerate the increased load demand related to the acceleration, impact and deceleration of your racquet. Remember that while your stretching and strengthening are important to reduce injury, it’s still important to build up play gradually based on your body’s fitness level, and allow adequate recovery when your body is tired after play.

Check Your Equipment and Technique

Improperly fitting shoes or racquets can add strain to the body and contribute to injury. Make sure you consult a professional to find the right equipment for you. In addition, taking some lessons or attending a clinic from a local coach can not only improve performance, but also reduce the risk of injury.

Address Pain And Stiffness Before It Becomes Persistent

Warm up and stretch sufficiently to address soreness and stiffness BEFORE you start competitive play. Pain and soreness that is progressively worsening and is no longer fully resolving between outings is THE INDICATOR TO SEEK A PT EVALUATION. Persistent problems like ‘Tennis Elbow’ and Rotator Cuff Syndrome can have many different causes and contributing factors (see links below). Doctors of Physical Therapy are highly trained to identify your specific condition and how to get you back on the court as soon as safely possible.

This article first appeared in the July 2023 Cioffredi & Associates Newsletter. Read more here:

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