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.
Other than chiropractic spinal manipulation, proper stretching, icing, strengthening, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, and rest (non-play), treatment can include deep muscle massage and other forms of muscle and fascia manipulation. If these conservative measures prove inadequate, medical injections of platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy could be tried. Consideration of surgery should be made only after ALL of these modalities were given a fair chance of success. The best therapy is prevention by proper weight training of the shoulder muscles.
Clay Court Tennis – The Soft Choice
Steve Hayden, Tennis Director
Beavercreek Clay Courts Tennis Club
You’ve often seen the ice-pack trail of tennis players, both young and old, tending to their knees, elbows, shoulders and ankle injuries…especially knees. Many of these injuries are due to the repetition and intensity of stroke production and movement (both upper and lower extremities). When considering the long-term impact to a player’s physical longevity and endurance, soft courts provide a distinct advantage over hard courts.
Tennis players can choose to play on a variety of court surfaces such as hard (acrylic covered asphalt or concrete), clay (crushed shale, stone, or brick), grass (short grass on hard packed dirt), or carpet, rubber, polymeric courts. The majority of court surfaces within US tennis facilities are either hard or clay courts. Of the estimated 250,000 tennis courts in the US, 70% are hard, 14% clay, 1% grass and 15% other (carpet, rubber, polymeric, etc)1. Often the court surface chosen by a player is due to a lack of options or player preference due to the player’s strengths.
While injuries impact all tennis players, studies have shown that the type of court surface affects the types and frequencies of injuries. Overuse injuries often occur in the upper extremities such as tennis elbow, rotator cuff tendonitis and back sprains. Upper extremity tennis injuries are mostly chronic and result from repetitive use, irrelevant of the nature of the court surface. Traumatic injuries often occur in the lower extremities such as knee ligament or meniscus and Achilles tendon tears. Lower extremity injuries are mostly acute and result from traumatic events and are often due to a harder court surface2. Injury surveillance amongst elite tennis players during some US National Championships on hard courts, revealed that nearly 50% of all injuries were located in the lower extremities; an incidence almost twice that for the upper limbs and trunk and back3.
If you want to play with less stress on your knees (and body), play on a clay court. Clay is considered the slowest surface due to friction of the clay. The clay court reduces the natural skid of the ball which tends to bounce up instead of skidding. A shot hit without spin will lose about 43% of its ground speed after contact with the clay surface thus having a bit less impact on your arm. A shot hit on a hard court will only lose about 23% to 28% of its ground speed4. A recent study5 indicates that the distance of player movement on a tennis court is around 30% higher on clay versus a hard court. Matches played on clay required players to cover more running distances, have fewer strokes per time interval, however still engage in more high-intensity activities than the matches played on a hard court. Therefore, a player will have a higher aerobic benefit when playing on clay surfaces.
The granular surface of a clay court acts as a shock-absorbing cushion, allowing players to slide into their returns. This prevents the joint jarring stops that occur on hard surfaces. Pain and/or injuries are substantially lower on tennis surfaces that allow sliding (clay) compared to surfaces that do not allow sliding. Studies show that the differences in lower extremity injury frequency are directly related to the differences in the frictional properties of the surfaces 6 . The frictional characteristics of the tennis court–shoe interface are a major risk factor for lower extremity injuries in tennis. The injury frequency on clay is significantly lower than on hard courts. The surface with the higher frictional coefficient enhances the speed of the game but also induces more frequent injuries as players perform at a greater rate of acceleration, speed and torque, hyperextension and therefore greater potential muscle fatigue.7 The loading of the lower extremities is smaller on surfaces that allow sliding than on surfaces that do not allow sliding. Surfaces that allow sliding are expected to have about 75% less lower extremity injuries than surfaces which do not allow sliding.6
So the more time you spend playing tennis on a clay court versus a hard court, the greater the chance that you will avoid knee injuries. The International Tennis Federation makes this same suggestion for players with knee injuries8. Senior tennis players have fewer knee problems if they have spent most of their tennis careers on clay courts.
I close with a quote from a gifted clay court tennis player, “Personally, I find playing on clay much easier on my creaky old joints. I can play almost twice as long on clay as I can on hard courts. As far as falling, I agree that I tend to fall more on clay, but that is probably because I tend to be more 'adventurous' in my attempts to reach shots on clay. Plus, falling on clay results in simply dusting myself off and continuing with the match. Falling on a hard court can ruin my day.”9
1. Tennis Construction FAQ ; American Sports Builders Association, 2018, https://www.sportsbuilders.org/faq.cfm#tennis10
2. The Activity Profile of Young Tennis Athletes Playing on Clay and Hard Courts; Sciendo, Vol 50:
Issue 1, Apr 2016; https://content.sciendo.com/view/journals/hukin/50/1/article-p211.xml
3. Effects of the playing surface on plantar pressures and potential injuries in tennis; British Journal of Sports Medicine, Jun 12, 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2465293/#ref10
4. The Physics of Grass, Clay, and Cement; Jonah Lehrer, 8 Sep, 2011; http://grantland.com/features/the-physics-grass-clay-cement/#fn-3
5. Upper Extremity Injuries in Tennis Players; PMC US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Feb 2017, 33(1): 175-186, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5125509/
6. Injury & Performance on Tennis Surfaces; HPL – Calgary, Dr. Benno Nigg, Canada, Nov 2003, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.562.7887&rep=rep1&type=pdf
7. The influence of playing surfaces on tennis injuries; Sports Med, Jun 1988
8. Knee Pain: Injury Clinic, 2018, https://www.itftennis.com/scienceandmedicine/injury-clinic/tennis-injuries/kneecap.aspx
9. Talk Tennis; dcottrill, 2008 https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/injuries-clay-court-vs-hard-court.202709/
From The New York Times: The Best Sport for a Longer Life? Try Tennis
By Gretchen Reynolds
Sept. 5, 2018
People who played tennis, badminton or soccer tended to live longer than those who cycled, swam or jogged.
Want to Decrease Your Chances of Dying??
Well then, play tennis, badminton, or squash! (Or pickleball?) Recently released research involving over 80,000 adults, indicates that players of racquet sports were an amazing 47% less likely to die of any cause, and 56% less likely to die of a cardiovascular disease compared to those who did not play. Those are some whoppin' numbers!
The study was done over more than a decade in England and Scotland and the average age of participants was 52. About half of them met the minimum recommendations for some kind of physical activity. They were tracked over the next ten years, and almost 9,000 of them kicked the bucket, technically speaking, during that period. The group that at least met the minimum standards for exercise were substantially less likely to end up underground.
As an aside, as recently as the 1940's, many doctors feared that exercise led to what was pejoratively called an "athletic heart." It was noted that many athletes had enlarged heart muscles, the same characteristic that many people who suffered heart attacks displayed. Later it was explained by the fact that many heart attack victims had hearts that had been laboring to pump blood through clogged arteries, and thus developed more heart muscle.
Interestingly, according to the study, some sports simply didn't have much impact on their participants chances of staying alive compared to other exercisers. As expected, it was clear that those who exercised in any way improved their chances of staying vertical. Evolutionarily, the human body was designed to be active. However, it was found that runners and joggers did not substantially improve their chances of staying on the right side of the sod by plying their sport, compared with other exercisers. Ditto for soccer and rugby players.
Other studies may shed light on this rather surprising conclusion. It has been shown that racquet sports have other components which promote longevity. Not only do they draw on the problem-solving parts of the brain in deciding on tactics and shot selection, but possibly more important, they have a definite social component to them. And there may be more affability in sports where the objective is not to hurl one's opponent to the ground. (Not to mention injuries.) The end result in all of this is simply that tennis players live longer, healthier, happier lives. (Senior) Tennis anyone?