A Dilemma With an Injury…?

I’m a senior in high school, playing my last year of competitive tennis before college. I’ve had a fairly successful high school tennis career, with two State tournaments and two Regional titles. However, this year, the challenge matches have been tough, and I’m one among four girls who are challenging for the fourth doubles position on Varsity.

My coach says that the only thing keeping me from taking the spot is that my new spin serve isn’t consistent yet. So, I’ve been practicing at least one to two hours daily, just working on my serve. However, my elbow and wrist are starting to get really painful tendinitis as a result of this vigorous practice.

I’ve been wearing a brace, and I feel like I should stop and take a break for a while, but I’m also afraid if I stop practicing for the time it would take my injuries to heal, I’ll fall behind the other contenders for the Varsity spot. I have to do something, because my game gets worse as the injury gets more painful.

Any ideas?

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  1. 3paul, 13 December, 2009

    Injury questions are really fundamental to the game imho. And relatedly, Bill Tilden once said: better to practice for 30 minutes with great concentration, than for two hours with poor. I firmly believe this is a good statement and very often I find people practicing and practicing and practicing to improve and the only thing they’re accomplishing is cementing and reinforcing bad habits.

    I’d say when you get out there to practice the problem serve, think about one or two things you’re working on and focus on them. You can’t build Rome in a day.

    The solution to a problem stroke is not necessarily practice, practice, practice. It might be thinking, dreaming, figuring out a solution, holding the racket in your hand in some of your spare time and getting a fixed idea of things that are happening and new things you can do. Lack of consistency usually points to a problem with stroke production, imho.

    It’s hard to play tennis with a deadline on results. It’s important to be able to relax, and interestingly it’s well established that it’s very hard to serve well when you’re not relaxed, perhaps that’s one very relevant tip when you are in a stressful situation with your serve: Tons of practice might just be counter-productive.

    My best advice would be to apply yourself to the problem, but don’t try to force it more than your ideas and abilities for change allow. You already have injured yourself, and that’s a real problem. I’d say the first concrete thing you should think about when you get out and practice is: what stroke best ensures lack of injury pain and still puts you on the road to the serve you want to have. It won’t necessarily come before your deadline, and that’s the simple fact. But your body is speaking to you, listen. That’s a starting point.

    As a side point, if you are using polyester strings, perhaps they need to be changed. I know several people with arm and wrist, etc problems whose problems started during a period with polyester and when they allowed the strings to stay in the racket too long simply because they hadn’t broken. Poly needs to be changed on a regular basis, even if it doesn’t break.

  2. Ziel, 13 December, 2009

    Do not put making varsity above personal health on your priority list. You need to take a break at least until your current problems are better. The brace will help, but if you keep playing the way you are, even if you make varsity you might find your season cut short with a more severe injury.

    Serving is very intensive when you do it for a long time straight. I wouldn’t even advise it. All you should need is 10-15 minutes of serving every day maximum. Doing much more than that will just fatigue your arm/shoulder. It’s when you start getting tired that your form will suffer. You might not even know you are doing anything, but even a slight adjustment due to fatigue can mess up your serve (and also your arm).

    Talk to your coach about it. He should understand if you want to take a week off tennis. After that week is up, go back out and see how it feels. If it seems better, just don’t practice serving so long. If it still hurts, don’t push it. See a doctor and get it looked at.

  3. Doggie, 13 December, 2009

    You won’t fall behind if you take some days off to rest. If you keep playing/practicing, you could end up even worse than ever.

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