Being active, competitive individuals makes us more prone to injury. We're certainly not going to give up what we love, so what can you do to stay healthy and injury free? Have some hints? Read something recently you want to share? Here's your chance!
Be The Person You Want To Be On The Court
Neal Newman, Ph.D.
I am a senior tennis player who loves and enjoys playing tennis. I am also a psychologist, who specializes in sport psychology/performance psychology. Jimmy Parker has asked me to submit an article to post on the National Senior Men’s Tennis Association website.
I have decided the most important message I can communicate is the message I received from my mom. She and my step dad, Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz, were psychologists and psychoanalysts, who co-authored the best seller, “How To Be Your Own Best Friend.” My mom always told me that anyone can have problems, and we can work on that, but most important of all is to show good character.
How do we show good character on the court? I suggest that our task is to play courageously and Do Our BEST as a player, while ALSO being a GOOD PERSON with our doubles partner and tennis opponents, and anyone else involved with the tennis event you are playing. This translates to being a positive SELF COACH, who is SELF ACCEPTING of mistakes and limitations while effectively guiding our game in terms of maintaining an optimal Mental State, staying with Technique, and selecting suitable game Strategy. It also means being OTHER ACCEPTING, in the sense of being empathic and respectful of others. Why not help create a therapeutic environment while we play? This can translate to enjoying others’ good shots, as well as our own. This can mean being empathic to ourselves and our opponents.
Let me share a favorite story about my son Cole. He has had his share of tennis successes. He was a high school state doubles champion in Ohio, was an All- American tennis player at Denison University, and we have won five Father Son National championships. He is now teaching tennis in Santa Monica, California. When he was about 14 years-old, he was playing in a local tennis tournament in his hometown, Columbus, Ohio. You need to understand that junior players would play these events in hopes of getting good rankings. A colleague of mine came to work one day after matches had started and said his son told him that Cole was his hero.
Here is what happened. Cole’s opponent started cramping. It was a hot day, and they were having a tough match. The tournament director saw the opponent had stopped due to cramping. He said he had x number of minutes to start playing before he would have to default him. The opponent was struggling. Just as he was about to default him, Cole rushed over and asked if he could take his bathroom break. The tournament director said fine. Cole went over and bought Gatorade to bring to his opponent. His opponent drank some, and with that further break and fluids was able to recover and continue the match. The opponent actually went on to win that set, but Cole was able to win the match. When Cole came home, he didn’t even mention what had happened in his match that day.
One more story. I didn’t play junior tennis. I didn’t take lessons and didn’t play any junior events. I did, however, play on my high school team at the High School of Music & Art in New York City, and at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. After college, I continued to play, and began playing tournaments regularly for the first time in my early 30’s. I had never been ranked as a player, but while playing doubles with a good friend, Andy Thompson, who had played at Ohio State, we had a good year. We were in position to get a top ranking in the Western’s, (now called USTA Midwest Section).
Back then, you had to submit your tennis results. There were no computers automatically compiling your results. Andy, as the more experienced tournament player, had submitted the results, but it turns out, to the wrong address. He submitted the information to the Midwest address on the back of the yearbook but was supposed to send the ranking information to a different address that was stated inside the yearbook. An honest mistake. The problem was the information then didn’t get forwarded to the ranking committee until after the stipulated deadline. It had been sent on time, but the executive secretary of the Western Tennis Association, a stickler for rules, told Andy we would not get ranked that year, because the ranking committee didn’t get the information in time.
Andy called me with the disappointing news. I had not been ranked before, so I was extra disappointed. I told him I would call the executive secretary. I explained to her that the ranking information had been submitted on time, but that I thought it was confusing that the address on the outside of the yearbook differed from the address on the inside. She said, “Are you the Neal Newman that played my son in a tournament a couple weeks ago?” I said yes. Her son, who was a terrific player at the University of Cincinnati, had come home after our match and said he had just had the most fun he had ever had on the tennis court. We had played a long three-setter, which I think he won 7-5 in the third. (The details are hazy. I seem to recall my wins better). Despite being a stickler for rules, she said she would let Andy and me be ranked if I would serve on an Ohio Valley Tennis Association Committee for a year. I guess you win some and you lose some, but it pays to be a good person.
To me, being a good person on the court includes being the person and player you want to be, while also being empathic and respectful of others. It is ok if you sometimes make mistakes and underperform as a player and person. Be in a self -accepting Learning Frame, where you learn from your mistakes and develop. I suggest setting a goal of being the person you want to be on the court. Mentally rehearse how you would like to be. See, hear, and feel yourself being a way you feel good about, as a player and person. Doing this ahead of time can maximize the chances of you being that way.
I wish you the best in learning to be the person you want to be on the court.
(Information About The Author: Neal Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Columbus, Ohio. He is retired from Ohio State University where he worked at the OSU Counseling & Consultation Service. He also taught music performance enhancement seminars at the OSU School of Music. He continues to maintain a small private practice, specializing in sport psychology and performance enhancement. As a tennis player, Neal has won 40 USTA national doubles titles, mostly teamed with Larry Turville, Phil Landauer, and his son, Cole Newman. He has won four ITF Individual World Championships in doubles, teaming with Larry Turville. He has won two ITF World Team Championships, representing the United States. He has been ranked #1 nationally in doubles in each age group, 35-60, and in Father Son competition. He was inducted into the USTA Midwest Hall of Fame in 2015.)
Tennis Shoulder: Causes, Cures And Prevention
Even non-tennis players know the term "tennis elbow" but few have heard of "tennis shoulder". Whereas low skill players often are the ones who suffer from tennis elbow, it is the more highly skilled and long-term players who suffer tennis shoulder. The disorder is documented in a 1982 study, which indicated it stopped participation in tennis for 50% of professional players. The loss of playing time, the research noted, was between two weeks to forever. I don't believe the condition is nearly so prevalent today in the professional game for one specific reason: weight training.
I was a chiropractic student in 1982 when I read a study in a medical periodical, "The Physician and Sports Medicine". The article described the condition as a painful and debilitating injury that could many times be visually detected: the dominant shoulder posture could be lower and wider than the non-dominant shoulder. There was a rear-view picture of a player with the condition. The player was clearly Jack Kramer. His right shoulder was at least two inches lower than his left and an inch or a bit more, wider.
This postural asymmetry is due to the over-stretching of the muscles that elevate and retract the scapula/shoulder blade. Those muscles are the trapezius, the levator scapula, and the rhomboids. When a player follows through on the serve motion, those muscles must decelerate the racquet arm. Over time and years of hard serving those muscles can become overstretched and therefore allow the shoulder to droop wider and lower. The "tissue damage" is painful and [can lead to the shoulder being] dysfunctional. The doctors conducting the study interviewed 100 professional players, male and female, and found 50% had been forced to stop playing due to the pain.
I was a player who had been a serve and volley specialist (even on clay) but had never suffered even a hint of shoulder pain. How was that? My immediate thought was that I had been a weight training guy from age 12 (to the present and I am 74.) Therefore, those shoulder elevator muscles had been strengthened enough to prevent over-stretching.
I wrote an article at that time for a Texas tennis monthly newsletter that explained the condition and how it could be cured and prevented. Amazingly enough, I soon had three tennis pros come to the Texas Chiropractic College intern clinic to see me about their tennis shoulders. All three were cured within a month, which involved about five visits for manipulation of the spinal nerve levels that control those muscles; some specific muscle therapies; and of course, specific weight exercises to tone and strengthen those shoulder elevators.
The chiropractic aspect of the therapy may be key, as those muscles attach to the spinal vertebrae of the neck and upper back/thoracic spine. That is where the spinal nerves that control those muscles emerge. The spinal joints may be compromised and misaligned by the asymmetrical stress. It is clearly less effective to exercise a muscle that has altered nerve stimulation.
The exercises can be explained in one image: reversal of the serve motion with resistance. Using a light three-five pounds weight at first, increasing the weight over a number of weeks to whatever weight can be tolerated up to 20 times in rapid repetition, hold the dumbbell close to the left knee (for right handed servers) and use a reversal of the serve motion up to the back-scratch position. That is called a "concentric" contraction of those shoulder elevators and other muscles involved in deceleration. Then use the serve motion with the weight very slowly and totally controlled (able to stop motion and reverse direction) back to the left knee position, that is called an "eccentric" contraction---the muscles are lengthening under control.
There is another variation of "tennis shoulder" that may not present the visual clue of the low and wide shoulder. That form of shoulder pain involves the primary internal and external rotator muscles. The muscle that is primary for shoulder "internal rotation" of the throwing/serving motion is the subscapularis. The muscle that decelerates this motion is the "infraspinatus". If you stand with the arm out to the side and raised to shoulder level, then rotate the forearm forward---that is internal rotation. When you raise the forearm up and try to rotate backwards, that is external rotation. Internal rotation of the shoulder is the primary throwing/serving motion that must be balanced by external rotator muscles. If the arm is down, elbow at side of waist, a motion forward across the stomach/chest (as forehand) is internal rotation. Rotating backwards is external rotation.
A weak external rotator infraspinatus or too strong internal rotator subscapularis can cause a painful shoulder. The ratio of internal/forward strength to external/backward strength should be about 100 to 80. That is, the external rotator strength should be 80% of internal rotator strength.
Again, the fix and prevention are the same. They are spinal joint adjusting to correct any altered nerve conduction stimulation of the muscles and weight training with light dumbbells progressing to heavier, 20 repetitions or less.
There is a wonderful study available online at PUBMED.GOV, the national Institutes of Health website. Type in "tennis shoulder" (on 12/30/18, there are 609 references that mention tennis shoulder).The reference will be approximately number 10 in that list of 609. It is in The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 2018 Feb:13(1):39-45.
Luckily, the whole article can be read on PubMed if you scroll to the bottom of the summary. It is clear and understandable. The essence of the article states that the internal rotators overwhelm the external rotators, therefore the therapy is to strengthen the external rotators as in the reverse serve motion mentioned here earlier and by "bent rows", a rowing motion retracting the shoulder and arm backwards.