February 14, 2020: For us die-hard tennis players it all comes together next week – Spring League Tennis! Don’t stop reading though if that is not your sport… this is for everyone and every sport. Theoretically, tennis players (or runners, or boot campers, or insert your sport here) should have been using the downtime from cold weather to focus on stability and mobility training. Building protective strength in your scaps and knees combined with increasing your articular range of motion (ah… that means joint movement) in your shoulders and hips, maybe the ankles too. This combination is square one for injury prevention. Without this base, forget using your kinetic chain to belt out your favorite topspin forehand or kick serve. If you can’t move your hips and shoulders correctly, then when you go to swing the racquet (golf club, baseball bat, etc), you will take that force straight to your back, knees, shoulder and elbow (medial for golf, lateral for tennis), and bam, just like that you are out for a few weeks of rest or maybe the rest of the season….
Stability and Mobility are key to closing the gap between when your PT says you are good to go and when you actually are not afraid to hurt yourself again. Unfortunately its a gap that is not filled with too many trained professionals. You might get tired of the bands and mini exercises or they no longer feel like they are doing anything, so you stop. What’s the number one injury you are likely to get after returning from a previous injury? That’s right, the same injury again! Yes, there is proof that you are far more likely to be re-injured right back in those old spots. So instead of just hoping that getting back out there is going to fix all your problems, make a change and start working on stability and mobility through a progression of isometrics and joint openers, move that into some challenging concentric moves and, only when you are ready, some controlled eccentrics. Some people might cringe at that word eccentrics – yes, that’s essentially plyometrics, but I’m not recommending deadlifts and box jumps (unless that’s your sport!), I’m talking controlled eccentric moves, and there are plenty of them if you know what you are doing. Ultimately you need to practice eccentric movements, because the bike and yoga that your Ortho recommended (right after she said, I really think you should never run, play tennis, swing a golf club, lift weights, etc again – which you ignored), is not going to protect you from the eccentric moves that are ultimately what injure us all. On the tennis court, or just walking the dog. That’s a fact that can’t be changed. But you can be smart and prepare for those moves ahead of time with the right training. Take care!