In 2007, I made it to Newk’s annual Tennis Fantasies camp despite having prostate cancer surgery earlier in the year; but I had to sit out camp the following year due to a shoulder injury (bicep tendonitis in my shoulder) caused by my racquet strings. And the same pain has just resurfaced!
Here is the “back story” and lessons to be learned …
In 2008, I switched from traditional strings to the new “poly” strings that all the pros were using. Mine was Luxilon Big Banger; and it was used in both the mains and cross strings, with about 55 lbs of tension.
I loved the effect the strings had on my game: feeling like I could hit the ball as hard as I wanted and it would dip in, due to the extra topspin the strings imparted. But over the summer of that year, I started getting shoulder pain.
The pain got worse and worse; and I thought it was from overuse or perhaps a dreaded rotator cuff tear. After x-rays and a couple of doctor visits, it was diagnosed as an inflammation of the bicep tendon as it attached to my shoulder. The doctor gave me a shot of “cortisone,” ordered me to rest, and I switched back to “normal” strings.
Although I had to miss Newk’s camp (for the only time in the last ten years), the inflammation and pain thankfully went away and my six-day-a-week tennis schedule continued.
This past winter, a Naples teaching pro advised me, “Anyone who uses the hard, poly strings both ways in their racquet is foolish. But anyone who doesn’t use poly strings ONE way on their racquet is equally foolish.”
He advised me to:
• Try the combo pack put out by Gamma that had their poly Zo Verve sting in the mains and a traditional synthetic gut in the crosses.
• String it as loosely as I can tolerate (mine was 48 lbs).
• And “break in” the racquet by only using it for 10 minutes for the first few sessions.
I did and again enjoyed the benefit of the new string technology … WITHOUT any shoulder pain.
But last week, up here in New Hampshire, I broke strings in both my racquets and had one strung with what was available locally, Luxilon Big Banger and synthetic gut at 48 lbs.
(The quick, one-racquet stringing job was nicely done for me by Laura Joslin; who was leaving the next day for the National Grass Court Super Senior Father-Daughter tournament at Longwood in Boston. And congratulations to her and Whitey Joslin for winning the Silver Ball!)
In THREE days of use (I confess to not remembering to “break in the strings slowly”), the same shoulder pain has returned!
I called over to the tennis club and spoke with Laura’s husband, who said, “Sure, Luxilon Big Banger is very hard on the arm; and there are softer, poly strings to choose from.” So they are changing to another string on the second racquet, when Laura returns.
Lessons to be learned:
1) Poly strings are a great addition to your game.
2) But use the more forgiving brands.
3) String them only on the mains, with a softer, synthetic gut on the crosses.
4) String at a tension in the 40’s
5) Break the racquet in slowly.
6) And … “listen to your body” to stop when the pain starts.