Why We Get Injured

supermanAs we “age-up” in the senior tennis age groups, the number of players who think they are Superman sometimes shrink due to injuries; but why do some get injured and others usually do not? It is due, in my opinion, mostly to things we do – and some things we do not do.

Something You’re Born With

In the 1970s while working for Connecticut Mutual Life, I created a program called “Run For Life,” with Olympic Gold Medal marathoner Frank Shorter as the national spokesman. One day I had the challenge of “jogging” with him (the day after he completed the Boston Marathon – and was injured) and I asked him what it takes to run a marathon.

He said, “Your body has to be perfectly balanced. If it is not, the pounding will find its way to your knees, your hips, or your back.” So maybe some senior players have bodies (knees, hips, backs, elbows, shoulders) that are “in balance” – or conversely, there is an inherent weakness that will surface with continued playing.

Something You Did

More likely, it is something we did to cause our own injury. The one year I was forced to miss John Newcombe’s Fantasy Tennis camp, I had bicep tendonitis. This injury was caused by my switching strings to Luxilon Big Banger – and not realizing that the growing pain in my shoulder was due to these hard strings.

So, did you….

• String your racquet too tightly with hard strings?
• Play with an “unforgiving racquet”?
• Play too many days in a row?
• Continue playing a match when you felt something start to go?
• Play HS/College football or basketball?

Something You Didn’t Do

But other than avoiding those things above, many injuries are preventable by things we can do ourselves…

• Start a program of daily stretching and/or yoga
• Lift light weights in a program to strengthen the muscles around key tennis joints
• Regularly get a good night’s sleep, so you go on the court refreshed
• Eat the right foods and don’t carry too much extra weight around the middle

How about you… what caused your last injury or what do you do to try to prevent them from knocking you out of tennis?

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8 thoughts on “Why We Get Injured

  1. your mercedes has around 180,000 miles on it. drive it around town everyday the same way, it may last another 50000 miles. then you decide to drive it to new hampshire,
    and it breaks down. you cant drive the mercedes like you did when it had 20,000 miles on it.

    Jomac, great analogy! George

  2. As a long time reasonably successful senior tournament player I have been pretty lucky up to now avoiding long term injuries, and as you say a balancing act. What I found got me was long plane rides & getting dehydrated then two days later boom I would strain a muscle. However, generally I was able to make relatively quick recoveries by icing for a day and then getting massage therapy. Often to the point of my leg turning black & blue. Then you wear a sleeve and gradually get back to normal.

    Recently I strained a knee and then overcompensating strained a thigh muscle at Sterling Oaks. Part of it is I had not played an opponent of that level and he pushed me to my limits. I knew that if I continued for the third set I would only injure myself worse; so I decided I would look forward to a rematch. My thigh got better and was looking forward to doing battle with Andrew Rae , several time world champion, in St. Pete. Then out of blue I came down with Pneumonia which I think I got working the desk at Palm Aire. Only glad that no one else got it , except poor Scott Thornton , the other TD, who didn’t have the nurse I did.

    So fate can be fickle and as we get older it seems the chances of some kind of injury become greater. That’s just the way it is. Maybe the tennis gods will smile on me for awhile and I can get back in action. I am lucky that I now have a good nurse, wife Kelli. George is right though the more you can do to stay fit, but at the same time no overdo it the better. Good hitting & enjoy your good health.

    Larry, i hope you are recovered and back on the court. One of my real “dislikes” is a person who comes into contact with others KNOWING he is sick and contagious. Thanks, george

  3. George: Almost 81 and still operating on original parts more due to luck than anything else but must add a few suggestions like fluids 1/2 hour before playing and plenty during a match; stretching the achilles before playing: avoid hard court surfaces; don’t sleep with your arms over your head; long warm-ups; and then there’s the weight thing. Also, don’t chase down every drop shot. Gene

    Gene… all are great pointers! thanks, george

  4. Something you did indeed!! I have persistent knee trouble I know it is from all the years of basketball and yes tennis.The basketball being the main culprit, as my doctor and former teammate said “The human body is not designed to launch itself 30 inches in the air and land thousands of times. It is rare that an elite level player does not have repercussions knees, ankles and hips.”
    That being said I don’t know anyone that regrets a single minute. I loved everything about playing and only wish I could play once more.

    Ron, yes, paying for The Sins of Youth is a two edged sword. thanks, george

  5. Injuries usually occur for three reasons:
    1. Rapid lateral movement which the body isn’t designed for structurally. This movement is prominent in racquet sports and may result in ligament tears and muscle strains.
    2. Repetitive bouncing seen in volleyball, basketball and running. This may result in joint damage.
    3. Tripping, or falling during a sporting activity due to accidents or body contact, depending on the sport, which can result in bone fractures, as well as the above.

    Advancing age predisposes one to injuries because the muscles atrophy (shrink) and fibrous tissue replaces other healthy tissue. Also bones lose their calcium with age and weaken. These changes are individually selective as we have all see people in their 80’s who have never had an injury and others in their 40’s who are repeatedly out with injuries.
    Training, stretching and weight training are all helpful in lessening the chance for injuries, but it is also important to listen to your body and moderate activity when the body calls for it.

    Dr. Fenster, you do not highlight “overuse” as a cause?? thanks, george

  6. Thank you, George. Overuse results in fatigue of muscles which can make one more injury prone.

  7. The last time I fell hard on a tennis court I landed on my head. Lucky for me or I might have gotten seriously hurt.

    Kind of a joke, but that really happened on an indoor hard court about 20 years back. The club had not swept the ball fuzz from the court and that makes the lines especially very slipperly. I wound up with a concussion.

    When I walked on the court I remember saying to the three other guys to be careful because of the ball fuzz. But none of us had the common sense to not play on the court. And so, I wound up spending the night in the hospital, undergoing “observation.”

    So, into the category of injury avoidance goes common sense: Always drink plenty of fluids when you play. Don’t eat (a big meal I mean; energy bars are ok) immediately before you play. If you or your opponent has chest pains, shortness of breath, and any of the other signs of a heart attack, don’t assume it is just a passing side effect from playing; get immediate medical attention where it is obviously warranted. Don’t play on a hard court that is filled with ball fuzz. Don’t play on a hard court that has gotten slippery from drizzle and has not fully dried out. Don’t play on a clay or Har-Tru court whose lines are not properly nailed down. Don’t play on a clay court that does not drain well too soon after a pouring rain (when the clay clumps like turds and it forms ruts and ravines.) Make sure your tennis shoes are not worn out and have a good tread that is appropriate to the court surface that you are playing on. Keep your tennis bag away from the area of play in case someone trips on it running down a drop shot, etc. ALWAYS clear unused balls away from the area of play, both on your court and by insisting on your opponent’s court, even if they seem to be in a location, like the net, where they will not be stepped on; the wind can still move them, or they can still roll on a sloped court surface due to gravity. Avoid playing in excessive heat and/or humidity but, if you must play, drink plenty of fluids, wear a hat (preferably an Ivan Lendl style with a neck cover), wear sunscreen, don’t wear dark colors, and wear clothing that is thin and allows sweat to wick away. If you feel sick on a court when it is excessively hot (e.g., fatigue, nausea, delirium, collapse) get off immediately, get to a shady place, and get medical attention to avoid heat exhaustion from turning into heat stroke. Don’t drop your bag in an area where bees, hornets, fire ants, scorpions, or other nasty critters can get into your spare clothes, and especially don’t sit in the same area on the ground. If you have allergies to bees, hornets, fire ants, scorpions, or the like, always make sure you have an Epi-Pen with you. Finally, STOP playing if you get more than slightly injured to avoid more serious damage to your body.

    Don’t ask me how I know all of the above. I will just say “experience.”

    Marty. all really good tips. trouble is… they require “mature judgement.” Thanks, george

  8. Since I have been dealing with athletic injuries for 50 years, I guess I should chime in on the subject. First of all in the hundreds of athletes I have treated, the number one cause of lack of injuries is genetics – both physical and emotionally. You are either gifted or limited by your selection of parents! Secondly, we are all one kinetic chain. The old foot bone connected to the ankle bone connected to the shin bone, etc. is very true. If one of the chain links are weak, lack flexibility, or endurance, something along the chain with suffer. Thirdly, pre-participant preparation, meaning dynamic warm-up, is very important and often ignored in the week-end warrior. Fourth, a consistent maintenance program of strength training and aerobic capacity is very important in reducing injury. Fifth, rest/recovery/nutrition all play a role on how your body will respond to any intense activity. This is another area ofter over-looked in the week-end warrior. Finally, prayer and luck also helps.

    The effects of the aging process can be greatly reduced if we follow those rules. Picking the right parents, proper warm-up, improving weakness and range of motion, good nutritional and sleep habits, and knowing your limits. Athletes who play out-of-control are the most vulnerable to injury. Injury will occur but we can definitely do a lot to reduce the incidents.

    Larry, great professional perspective ! Thanks, George

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