My thoughts on polyesters and arm health

Discussion in 'Strings' started by Say Chi Sin Lo, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    First of all, I want to start off by saying that: if you have good strokes, you're not going to get tennis elbows or other forearm related issues.

    Now, why am I posting this? Recently, I started experimenting with polyesters as a full bed and as a hybrid in the mains. I usually play exclusive with gut/poly hybrids and I recently ran out of gut, so I thought I'd experiment with having polyesters in the mains and see what all the "spin and control" raves are about.

    Here are some background information:
    TW reissue Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85, MSV Co-Focus 1.18
    Gut/poly strung at 55/51
    Full bed strung at 48/46
    Poly/syn gut strung at 51/48
    Trend is: I lowered my tension with having polys in the mains.

    I think I know why there are so many accounts of polys and arm problems. It comes down to the lack of power coming from these polys. Because of this lack of power, you need to hit harder. And of course, generating more power will stress your muscle groups more. Hence, the arm injuries.

    Now again, if you have good mechanics, there should be minimum stress to your forearm. But let's be honest, at our level, a lot of us DON'T have good mechanics, but essentially all of us are using polys, some are using them well beyond its actual playability, and that's where the injuries come in. Because of the lack of power, one is forced to hit harder which causes the forearm muscle groups to fatigue faster. We all know tennis elbows are chronic injuries, and chronic injuries are caused by fatigued muscle groups stressed beyond their capacity.

    I'll sum it up with the following:

    Low power -> harder swings -> faster muscle fatigue -> repeated stress to fatigued muscle groups -> chronic injuries

    All of which are exaggerated if you have bad mechanics.

    Feel free to chime in. I am not in anyway bashing polyesters, I think they have a place in tennis (obviously, since I cross them with my gut). But I think the onus on the players themselves.

    1) Observe and adjust your fitness - does your elbow have the stamina to withstand the added shock that is transmitted by polyesters? If not, either stop using them or work on your forearm muscle groups.
    2) Observe your strokes - Do you ACTUALLY hit with spin? Or do you hit flat like a pancake? Which a lot of novice players actually do despite claiming they're using "western"ish grips. If you're not hitting with spin, you're not benefiting from polys but taking all the abuse.
    3) Finally, observe your mechanics - I don't care what strings or equipment you use. If your technique and mechanic is bad, your arm will explode. Natural gut or not.

    Those are my thoughts on polyesters, I will not continue to have polys in the mains anymore. I don't care for the lack of feel, nor do I care for the lack of power, and dead polys are a b**** to play with.
     
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  2. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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    Also, at what level of play, can you actually generate more spin due to difference in string characteristics?

    And how is that excess spin utlized in match play i.e. is it spin for "coolness factor" or is it really used to "control" the ball?

    Can you gain some advantage in playing with more flexible and heavy racquet in the supposed loss of spin potential from giving up poly?
     
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  3. KaiserW

    KaiserW Semi-Pro

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    I hit with my friends racquet with poly in it and absolutely hated it. As you mentioned there is no feel to it. I use synthetic gut and have been perfectly happy with it. I recently ordered a multi to see if I like better than the synthetic gut. To each's own but poly is not for me either.
     
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  4. phishbiscuits

    phishbiscuits Rookie

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    I agree about stroke mechanics. I have been in a long slump and my forehand broke down completely. I usually generate a lot of racquet head speed but have not as of late. I found my arm hurting a bit more than usual. I should note I ALWAYS feel sore after an outing with a full bed of poly.

    Incidentally, a lot of TT'ers use polys for spin potential. I use them to simply allow myself to swing out freely, as I am a bit bigger than most "typical" tennis players. I actually find myself generating more spin with a gut/poly hybrid than a full bed of poly. To each his own (pardon the cliché)...
     
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  5. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    stroke mechanics are important but there are other factors like fitness, health, age and genetics. some arms can take poly, others not.

    you can't say "poly will destroy any arm" or "if you have better technique any arm can take poly" both would be an overgeneralization.
     
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  6. Shaun

    Shaun Rookie

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    True. I've been using Luxilon poly since I started out playing tennis and have been using it since then and I've had no arm problems whatsoever.
     
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  7. wmilas

    wmilas Rookie

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    I disagree with the stroke mechanics. I can tell you are assuming only forehand mechanics. While I agree that good mechanics (out in front, early, easy swing) will temper most issues, here are a few instances where they will not.

    1) Extreme western grip. Even in a forehand there will me torsion and stress on the TE muscle group as you rotate the frame through the ball.

    2) 1HBH. This is where a lot of older players have issues as many of them hit a 1HBH. There is direct impact on the TE muscle group and tendon especially if in a semi western or full western. There is no avoiding this. Mechanics won't help here.

    3) Volley. Assuming a 1H volley there will be stress on the backhand side especially in instances where the wrist needs to be layed back for control or targeting reasons.

    4) Kick/Twist serve. The pronation out wide puts stress on the TE area. The better the kick serve the more the stress and the snap out the more action on the ball.

    I've had TE in the past. I had to sit down and go through all my mechanics to find the issues. Mine were taking forehands late sometimes (bad mechanics), Hitting 1HBH (good mechanics) and Hitting good Kicks (good mechanics). After rehab, I fixed the occasional lateness issue but there is nothing I can do to fix the others. I can play with a poly/synthetic hybrid, but a full poly at my age (40+) just isn't condusive to my health.

    If it maters I'm a semi western aggressive baseline player.
     
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  8. PaulC

    PaulC Semi-Pro

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    I also played with 6.0 85 (various versions) in my college days for a year or so before switched to POG mid 4-stripes (later on, a few other "true 93s" too), with similar tension setting to your gut/poly combo, but with full syn (POSG) or full multi (A. Gut 2000) instead.

    However, when I decided to go with poly/syn hybrids later, I went all the way down to 38-45s, depends on frames and weather.

    I'd recommend take another shot at 40lb, with a even thinner (1.10-1.15), and shaped soft poly, you may see a huge difference.

    If the temperature in your region is below 55F, tension probably need to be even lower to be around 38lbs.

    BTW, thin shaped soft polys like Cyclone/Cyclone Tour, Focus-Hex, Big Hitter Black 7 etc make a world of difference, at least for me, it makes my topspin shots almost effortless :)

    Just my 2 cents
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
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  9. ShahofTennis

    ShahofTennis Semi-Pro

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    I second the 1HBH statement above. Anything above 48 lbs on a full poly bed at 93- or 45 lbs in a 95+ can lead to TE probz If you use Poly with a 1hbh.
     
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  10. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    I third the 1 handed backhand comment. I used mine for a number of years without problems but as I approached 40, I could not shake the TE. Switching to a 2 handed backhand solved the problem.
     
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  11. eelhc

    eelhc Hall of Fame

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    Agree but for me there's a huge difference having good strokes during practice, hitting session, ball machine, etc vs in a match.

    During a match I may reach, wrist and muscle the ball to save a point and I do feel it afterwards.
     
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  12. newpball

    newpball Legend

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    Even pros have arm and wrist related issues, are you saying they have bad strokes?
     
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  13. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

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    The simple fact is that polyester strings are harsh on the arm. You can't dispute that.

    Now, the question remains: can you tolerate that harshness? That is an individual question. Some folks have arms of steel. Others, not so much. It's a balancing act: you have to experiment with the strings to see if you can handle the stiffness of those strings.

    For most rec players, IMO, poly isn't worth it. The pain that you might feel isn't worth the performance.

    Let's face it: as a rec player, you don't have endorsement deals. You're not likely getting paid to perform at the highest levels of the sport. Therefore, you ought to have a racquet/string setup that offers you the best comfort to performance ratio.

    Professionals, however, make their living off of the sport. They MUST have the best of the best. Their performance to comfort ratio is 10:1. In other words, Djokovic doesn't likely care how comfortable his setup is. He wants the best performance at any cost. Pros can afford to pay the "price" at the end of the day. And for them, the price is things like cortisone injections to ease inflammation, as well as frequent physical therapy and maybe even surgery.

    But for rec players, we don't need that. It's not worth it.

    At the end of the day, if you can't keep the ball in play with either nylon or gut strings, then it's not the equipment: it's you.
     
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  14. newpball

    newpball Legend

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    Real tennis players are like the Marlboro man, they can handle things! :twisted:
     
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  15. Tazz44

    Tazz44 New User

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    I've been using polyester strings for years and haven't had the slightest hint of TE from them. That is, until I put a full bed of poly in a new racquet that i recently purchased that has an 18x20 string pattern. I guess the dense string pattern combined with the polyester is a no-no for me. My elbow has been killing me. I just recently cut the poly out and am going to try a hybrid. I hope that does the trick. Any recommendations would be appreciated.
     
    #15
  16. TenFanLA

    TenFanLA Hall of Fame

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    The problem with your statement is that all Marlboro men died from cigarette related illnesses.
     
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  17. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

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    No, string density has nothing to do with it. All things being equal, take the same exact frame and drill it for 16x19 and 18x20, it shouldn't be more harsh on your arm either way.

    My question is: what 18x20 pattern frame did you buy?

    And, what racquet were you using before that didn't give you any pain?

    Stiff frames can also increase stiffness overall.

    Another question: how many hours of hitting (with those same strings in the 18x20) did it take before you noticed arm pain?
     
    #17
  18. Triskadekaphilia

    Triskadekaphilia Semi-Pro

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    That's often the problem with tendonitis...it is a chronic inflammation and may not cause symptoms acutely. So by the time you feel pain you have already developed some chronic tissue damage. Poly is a harsh stiff string, no doubt about it. It will transfer more harmful vibration and force to your wrist and arm than nylon or natty gut. A lot more if you don't cut it out frequently or hit the sweetspot. Maybe some arms can take the abuse and others can't but how do you know which camp you are?
     
    #18
  19. Tazz44

    Tazz44 New User

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    The racquet that I was referring to is the Head Youtek Graphene Speed Pro. Before that, I was using the Head Speed Elite. The stiffness ratings are very similar for these racquets. It probably took a couple of hours before I noticed a pain in my elbow. The pain really intensified after the hitting sessions and now it's still there, but isn't as severe when I go back to the Elite racquet as opposed to the Speed Pro. I could literally feel the vibrations running through my arm with every stroke. I just put a hybrid string in it so I'm going to give it a try in a few days to see if it feels better. I do play several days a week.
     
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  20. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    IMHO, string density is quite important. I've never been able to use full poly before until I went with the 16x16 patterned frame I use now.
     
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  21. Tazz44

    Tazz44 New User

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    Mikeler, I hope you're right. I've never had any issues with poly strings until I started using this racquet. I believe that a change in string type for this particular racquet will fix the problem. Fingers crossed!
     
    #21
  22. tennisgotomarket

    tennisgotomarket Rookie

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    I had the same experience recently. switched to a low power racket and strung full poly. no problem until I faced a big hitter for 4 days. injured my arm from trying to get more power from the poly.

    so i think your rule is correct. excellent test and sharing. thank you.
     
    #22
  23. Engelworks

    Engelworks Rookie

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    This could be a factor as well:
    Sorry but I couldn't resist :twisted: :razz:
     
    #23
  24. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Lots of pros get tennis elbow. I guess they don't have "good strokes".
     
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  25. mawashi

    mawashi Hall of Fame

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    Not exactly.

    The facts are that polys by their nature are rather harsh strings and transfer shocks more then other strings even with the best strokes.

    1. Even the pros can't hit the ball perfectly all the time, I don't expect regular players to do any better.

    2. Polys go dead faster then most any other string and few regular players I know swap out strings often enough to ensure that the poly remains fresh.

    3. Polys are very low powered and need a bigger swing which, during off center hits can really cause a lot of hurt.

    4. Even when fresh some players complain of serious arm pains which I suspect is the resonance of the shock wave.

    I'm a full poly user and polys do hurt more then with other strings but not by a such a significant margin that I would not use them due to their performance.
     
    #25
  26. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    Where did you get that from? Haha, I think it was for another thread where someone said breaking the crosses mean you're not the ball right.
     
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  27. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    i agree w/ mikeler. string density is indeed very important
     
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  28. COPEY

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    Tennis elbow is actually a misnomer, and more people suffer from TE who don't play tennis.
     
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  29. Vlad_C

    Vlad_C Semi-Pro

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    I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again :) ), if you hit with the right technique, you can hit with a frying pan and you will not develop tennis elbow.

    And what I mean by "the right technique" is what most pros do, which is accelerating the racquet before the impact, and then RELAXING THEIR GRIP AT THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. Basically, when the racquet hits the ball, your grip on the racquet should only be tight enough so that the racquet doesn't go flying off of your hand.

    The mistake that many people make is to use a very short backswing that does not allow them to get enough acceleration before the moment of impact. And then they keep gripping the racquet tight and "pushing" it forward through the moment of impact, in an attempt to get more power. In this case, the entire shock cause by the impact is transmitted through the wrist to the tight muscles of the arm, and that's how you end up with TE and wrist problems.

    It's the difference between "striking" the ball, and "pushing" the ball.
    When you strike the ball, you accelerate the racquet, and then you let it swing around your body and strike the ball.
    When you push the ball, you keep pushing the racquet forward through the impact.
    (I don't know if this makes sense to you guys, but for me it is very obvious. Try it out next time when you're hitting at the wall, and you'll feel the difference right away.)

    I'm just watching Davis Cup right now, Canada-Japan. They were just showing some slo-mo replays of Nishikori hitting some big forehands, and it is so obvious: he's practically launching the racquet in orbit around his body, gripping it only hard enough so it doesn't go flying off his hand. At the moment the racquet strikes the ball, his grip is relaxed, and the shock caused by the impact does not go through his arm at all. At that point he could be holding a baseball bat, or a frying pan, and still not get any TE.

    PS. I forgot to say, that for all this to work, your racquet must be heavy enough to have enough inertia when swung around the body. With a light racquet, you'll have to push it all day in order to get enough power out of your shots and to resist the force the ball exerts on the racquet.
     
    #29
  30. Vlad_C

    Vlad_C Semi-Pro

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    And yes, the point that the OP makes about string tension and power is very valid.
    If you don't get enough power out of your strings, you will try to compensate by trying to "push" and "muscle" the ball, and you end up hitting the wrong way and hurting yourself.
     
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  31. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    ^^ and if you are able to hit like a pro with perfect technique and use polys, you may still develop wrist injuries ala delpo, jc ferrero, agassi, and numerous other pros... ;)
     
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  32. Vlad_C

    Vlad_C Semi-Pro

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    DelPo injured his LEFT wrist now, he's a nice guy, but I think his problem is over-praying or something... :twisted:
     
    #32
  33. tennisgotomarket

    tennisgotomarket Rookie

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    Nice post. Thanks. but i think you can only do this if your opponents are hitting balls you like.
     
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  34. newpball

    newpball Legend

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    Sure, pros never get problems......:rolleyes:
     
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  35. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    And what about the right wrist injured before??? :twisted:
     
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  36. reds17

    reds17 Rookie

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    How difficult of a transition was that for you, and how long did it take to get to the point where you're feeling just as comfortable as you were with the 1hbh? I've considered switching too, but feel foolish and clumsy every time I try a 2hbh.
     
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  37. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    I had a big advantage in that I learned tennis my first 2 years with a 2 hander. It never felt quite right so I switched to a 1 hander. After a 10 year hiatus, I came back using the 2 hander for almost a year before switching to the 1 hander again for about 8 years. So I already had 3 years of using a 2 hander. The best thing TE did was force me to use a left hand dominant 2 hander. So basically my transition was very easy.
     
    #37
  38. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    just got to spend more time drilling the 2hbh. a ball machine is great for this. also watch videos and look at yourself in the mirror while shadow swinging. it'll come eventually.
     
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  39. reds17

    reds17 Rookie

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    Thanks. Yes that is exactly what I plan on doing within the next month or two, is to get a new ball machine before spring breaks up here in the Northeast. No doubt I'll spend time early on feeling more like Chris Evert than Novak Djokovic :). You get the gist, I know even if I do develop a good 2 hander, Chrissy Evert would still kick my tail..
     
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  40. mad dog1

    mad dog1 Hall of Fame

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    shadow swinging helped me quite a bit. i've always had a 1hbh, but just for kicks wanted to develop a 2hbh. when i started out, i'm not gonna lie. i looked like a disjointed robot and it was laughable. my hitting partner laughed and so did i. i was ok providing him some comic relief. :) i kept working on it and now when i hit a 2hbh, it looks natural. took about a yr of off and on practice. my hitting partner doesn't even notice when i switch to a 2hbh during rallies. it's still not as dependable as my 1hbh because i don't use it enough. but if i'm rushed, i will pull out the 2hbh as the contact point is a little farther back than the 1hbh.
     
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  41. ultradr

    ultradr Hall of Fame

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    But there is no such thing as "perfect" mechanics. Good mechanics to someone
    could look bad to others. Plus you need high skill level to spot good mechanics
    from bad ones.

    Most non-pros have some glitches and even world class players do have some.
    Even if you have mechanics close to "ideal", there will be wear and tear.

    From my experiences, my wrist could not take polyester ( at high tension ).
    That is pretty much only injury I had in 20 years. The problem went away
    after I stopped using polyester.

    Most frequent issue with polyester among non-pro like us is not being able to
    string polyester frequently enough.
     
    #41
  42. THESEXPISTOL

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    Listen to this guy ;)
     
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  43. Bobby Jr

    Bobby Jr Legend

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    Disagree completely. At a broad strokes (no pun intended) overview the premise is fine but to imply it's a firm rule is pushing it a bit.

    This here is where the idea you're promoting starts to sound too fishy to be legit imo.

    Poly strings are stiffer per se (on-average, compared to others). Many people play tennis well within the tolerances of their body using a broad variety of techniques - often a subjective topic in itself with many varying opinions in the finer details - and, by simply changing to polys, some people will push past the limit of what their body can tolerate (assuming they continue to play at the same rate/length). The physiology of people varies quite broadly, more than people often appreciate, and it can make one group of people practically immune to something* and another group extremely prone to it.

    (*diseases, injuries or all manner of ailment etc)
    ...again, a call which will have many varying opinions out there. For example, some players grip their handle quite tightly, others loosely. Some have much more consistent on-average contact points on the string bed. These sort of things can make all the difference with regards to where the point in the curve where that particular person will start developing issues. Even then the difference alone could just be cumulative use, as Breakpoint's example of pros with tennis elbow would be an example of in many cases.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
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