One of the main issues with tennis injuries is simply about volume.
What other sport asks competitors to compete day in, day out at their highest level? What other sport only gives their very best athletes 2-4 weeks off at the end of the season? What other sports are played on varying surfaces without a set time limit on matches? Let’s not forget the time they spend in the gym to first develop themselves physically and then to try and maintain it throughout the season.
Tennis players generally practice for about an hour at varying intensities before a match. They then have warm up periods before, on average, playing for 90 minutes to 3 hours at the highest level they can muster on a daily basis, hurling their bodies around the court to retrieve a tiny little ball.
A huge number of these players only have access to the physios provided by the tournament and often have under developed core systems or are lacking in areas of their physical development. Their lack of physical development (be it because of age or lack of access to training) predisposes them to injury. It is often also these lower ranked players who barely have an off season because they play any and every tournament trying to make a living.
Sometimes, even when access isn’t an issue for financial reasons, there still isn’t enough time to develop a strength base for the players before the volume of play and training has taken it’s toll.
Petra Kvitova’s postural muscles leave plenty to be desired and as a result of her poor thoracic mechanics her shoulder and elbow struggle – and Petra has someone who travels with her most of the time.
Tennis players also spend vast periods of time sitting in transit or flying between destinations and prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on an already overloaded body.
Tennis itself requires short bursts of explosive activity followed by rest periods between points of between 20 to 25 seconds.
This leads to a work to rest ratio of between 1:3 and 1:5 which can be changed fairly significantly depending on the court surface with a slower clay court tending to have a ratio closer to 1:3 because the duration of the points are longer.
When planning training for the tennis season, work to rest ratios need to be considered along with the fact that players can be required to produce high power shots while maintaining agility, shot accuracy and speed over the course of a 5 set match which can exceed 5 hours.
For this reason adequate off-season training is vital for the tennis player, not only to progress individual ability and recovery from any injuries, but also to train for the demands of a sport that does not easily allow for a great deal of in-season training so that the player can endure the long season ahead.
To get the best results and minimise injuries during the season, a player needs to build an adequate strength base from which to train for power, endurance and speed while training the appropriate energy systems. This is in addition to training sport specific skills.
The fact that there are so many different aspects of a tennis players game that need to be developed all add to the volume of exercise performed by these phenomenal bodies – all of which takes a toll on them in the short and long term.