Physiotherapy tips for playing tennis

Physio advice for tennis players

With Andy Murray storming the tennis world and hopefully looking like he’ll be the first British Grand Slam champion for decades, tennis as a sport is gaining in popularity. Enjoyed by people of all ages, and with more and more indoor courts springing up around the country, tennis is no longer confined to the summer months.

Whether you play tennis competitively or just for fun and exercise, there are a few important things to follow to keep you in good health and free from injury. Physiotherapy has long been associated with physical movement and well-being and it can educate you in these matters. Here are a few things to consider.

Have a health check before you start

If you are new to the game it’s worth a visit to the GP before you pick up a racquet. Any existing conditions or physical problems should be assessed by a medical doctor to ensure your body is going to be able to cope with a higher level of activity. If you already have an injury, visit a physiotherapist to help get you back into a good physical state and then ask them for advice about exercises that can help you prepare for tennis.

Prepare your body

When playing sport, you’ll need to prepare the muscles that are needed most. This is done in a warm-up session before the game and a cool down session afterwards. This should last about 15 minutes. Here are the muscles to concentrate on for tennis and how to stretch them:

Quadriceps muscles
These are in the thigh and can be stretched by standing on one leg, supporting yourself against a wall and then pulling the other leg up behind you by the foot. Keep your pelvis straight and pull the foot into the buttocks. You’ll start to feel the stretch in your thigh. Repeat with the other leg.

The hamstrings lie at the back of your leg; the opposite side of your thigh. Stretch them by lying on the floor, pulling one leg up under the knee and then straightening that leg out. You’ll feel the stretch in your hamstring. Now do the same with the other leg.

Adductor (thigh) muscles
On the inner thigh are the adductor muscles. These can be stretched by adopting a wide leg stance and then leaning over to one side. As you do this, the weight bearing leg should bend and the stretch felt on the inner thigh. Repeat this with the other leg.

Calf muscles
Next up are the calf muscles. The upper calf can be stretched by lunging on to a bent leg and keeping the other straight with its heel on the floor. Do this gradually so the body weight eases on to the bent leg. You’ll start to feel a stretch in the calf. The lower calf can be stretched by placing the feet one in front of the other and then bending at the knees while keeping both heels on the ground.

Hip muscles
The hip muscles can be stretched by kneeling on one leg with the other at a ninety degree angle. Ease forward on to the bent leg and keep your back straight. Repeat with the other leg. The buttocks require stretching by lying down and then pulling one leg up to your chest. Feel the stretch and then repeat with the other side.

Trunk and pectorals
The trunk stretch involves standing with one arm straight above the head and then leaning over to the side. Repeat with the other arm. The pectorals (or chest muscles) can be stretched by clasping your hands behind your back and then slowly lifting your arms upwards until you feel the stretch. The final muscles to do are the triceps in the upper arm. Do this by raising the arm above the head, bending the elbow and grasping the elbow with the other hand. Slowly push backwards and feel the stretch. Repeat with the other arm.

Equipment and diet for tennis

You should go to a decent sports shop and ask for advice about what equipment you need. As a guide, you’ll need a racquet that has good shock-absorption to reduce vibration through the arm. You’ll also need sports shoes that provide support and cushioning.

Your diet needs to accommodate your new activity too so eat plenty of protein and carbohydrates to help build muscles and provide the fuel you need. Most important is to drink plenty of water. Preparing your body now will help you stay injury and worry free.

Visit a trained physiotherapist

If you have an existing physical problem, or you want to keep in top physical condition, then a visit to a trained physiotherapist can help you achieve your goals. They can pass on expert advice for staying healthy while playing and can help you return to tennis after an injury.

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