Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by heycal, Feb 20, 2007.
At this point, I'd be satisfied if I can make it to the kitchen tomorrow to grind some coffee beans.
Hi Heycal - I am going through the same thing. I am about your age and took up tennis about 3 years ago and I have had injury after injury despite previously being a fairly fit, active and injury free person. I am typing this having not hit a ball for 4 weeks, with an icepack on my shoulder following my 3 times a day routine of warm-up, stretch, theraband shoulde exercises, stretch, ice (Yawn). Only another 2 months minimum to go before the physio will let me near a tennis court. Last summer when I was playing loads I had a constant stream of pulled thigh muscles, pulled calf muscles, screaming tendons ...
I constantly think about quitting at the moment as it really does not seem to be worth all the pain. My theory is that taking up tennis and discovering you love it to the point of addiction in 'later' life is bad for your health. It is such a technical game that it takes so much practice to advance and so when you start late you have an awful lot to pack in a short space of time if you are determined to reach your potential. So we overplay, over-compete and our aging bodies do not like it.
I reckon it is the tennis equivalent of a mid-life crisis where we try to recapture our sporting youth in a new sport. My consolation is that I see and someimes play doubles with older (60+ year old) players who can play every day of the week and never get injured. The reason is that they are past their mid-life tennis crisis and have accepted the inevitable aging process. So they do not play mad games of macho highly competitive singles, do not play more than once a day, do not try to serve at 100+ mph, do not bust a gut to chase down balls but let them go and say 'too good', do not strain every sinnew to reach a good lob, do not throw themselves about at the net like a 17 year old Boris Becker ....
Anyway that is my theory so I have resolved if I ever get back on court to play less (expecially in winter), practice good technique more, recognise my limits on court and do more conditioning work. And stop trying to play when injured unless my physio says it is OK. Like others on here I have read articles saying it is OK to do so as your body will tell you to stop (pain) if it is not OK. I now realise that does not always apply. Sure it helps my stiff back to take an anti-inflammatory and play tennis but the same approach has wrecked my shoulder. I played with no pain for months following an injury but have now found that my infraspinatus muscle has nearly vanished, my shoulder is misaligned and because of that I have dmaged a bicep tendon. Then maybe I will make it to tennis old age and have a thoroughly enjoyable injury free time.
Excellent post, ye oldhacker. I think your observation about us middle aged "beginners" being more susceptible to disaster than longtime players is on the money. I also agree that one need to careful they don't O.D. when indulging this addiction, and I'm actually pretty good at not playing too much or too often, and starting to play less aggressively and with better technique. Those things only go so far though, as my torn calf that occured while serving with a nice easy motion and relaxed grip demonstrate...
About your back and playing through injuries: I've been in a couple of debates around here on this topic, and posted an article from the New York Times in this forum dealing with this issue a few months back. I personally believe it is definitely possible to play through certain injuries -- problem is, we often don't know ahead of time which ones we can play through and which ones we can't.
But I'm intrigued by your remark that playing tennis seemed to be good for your back. Before my calf tore the other night, I had been struggling with back issues myself (among other things.) I asked the physical therapist guy if I could play tennis, and he hemmed and hawed and said "I'd rather you didn't, but to be truthful, no one really knows for sure about these kinds of things. So try it if you must, and hope for the best but prepare for the worst." And so I did. I went out and played, a few different times actually, and I didn't feel the slightest bit worse, and possibly even a little bit better.
Along the same lines, there is an essay in the January/February issue of Tennis magazine that details a man's struggles with injuries, and he mentioned that much to his surprise, his back problems got better the more he played, that he actually looked forward to playing tennis not only for the enjoyment factor but because it made his back feel better.
Hi Heycal - I have had lower back pain on and off since my mid twenties. I put it down to a lot of weight training and heavy warehouse work I did in my late teens and early twenties. I have seen various docs and osteos over the years and the most effective advice has been to strengthen the core and keep active. I am not great at doing exercise for the sake of it so that was hard for me until I took up tennis. When I first started playing about 3 years ago I often got back twinges while playing and had to stop a few times. But I have not had a problem with my back for the past couple of years during which I have played lots of tennis. I reckon the tennis has improved the muscles stregth and flexibility in the lower back area. I have been laid off tennis for the past 4 weeks with a shoulder problem and have noticed my back is sometimes painful in the mornings and I put it down to lack of tennis. So I am having to add sit-up and back raise exercises to my tedious shoulder exercise routine to try to stave off a major back regression !
All the beginners should read this thread because the sooner you learn proper technique the better. Almost every amateur player I see has swing faults, particularly on the serve and backhand, which are injury producing monsters. One of the guys at our club would easily be 4.5, but because he has a chronically injured shoulder from faulty service mechanics, he is a 3.5-4.0. Just watching him serve makes my shoulder hurt!
Good thread, Cal.
Thanks. Too bad I'm a position to create it...
Interesting stuff about the back. My advice to back pain sufferers would be to look into this trend of playing through certain injuries instead of just assuming it will make things worse. (Of course, my own back pain originated from playing tennis, so it's probably safest to never pick up a racket in the first place....)
I hear you about having to add some whole new stupid routine to your daily workout and how much that sucks. With all the tennis-related conditioning we have to do in order to stay in the game, there isn't any time left over to actually play it.
Man, I feel your pain, Heycal.
I started playing tennis in Sept. 04, tore my meniscus in April '05, had surgery in Sept. 05. At 46, hardly a day goes by that I'm not nursing an injury of some sort. Most of the fall season '06 I played with only one good limb (left arm).
Quit? *Try and make me!*
But I'm not crazy, so I do many things to avoid and manage injuries.
1. I do one of those outdoor fitness classes where you do endless pushups on concrete in the early morning. Without the upper body, abdominal, and lower body strength training, I'd be getting hurt every time I played. The suggestions to do something for flexibility and strength are spot-on -- playing tennis and only playing tennis is an injury waiting to happen.
2. Play some doubles. Less serving, less court to cover.
3. Run hills and sprints, not as much distance running. I find that working on explosive running seems to guard against muscle injuries and suchlike like hamstring stuff. I have a "run every ball down" approach to tennis, so I think I'd pull up lame more often if I weren't used to sprinting.
4. Realize that inflammation is the enemy and anti-inflammatories are your friends. My OS and PT were both of the mind that taking anti-inflammatories at the first sign of a problem was the way to go. I usually take at least 2 Advil before a match, and I go with 3 or 4 if I have an ongoing problem. As it was explained to me, Advil (Ibuprofen) used to be a prescription medication, and the prescription dose was 800 mg (4 tablets). At the lower, non-prescrpiton dose of 1-2 tablets, Advil is an effective painkiller, but if you want an anti-inflammatory effect, you need to increase your dose. Run all that by your doctor, but my knee has been far more reliable and I've suffered fewer relapses with Advil for prevention rather than gutting it out.
5. Realize that if you *didn't* play tennis, your body would likely feel just as bad or worse. Aging sucks, no matter what you do.
Great advice Cindysphinx!
On the back issue, I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist to see if they can give you some advice on strengthening your core/back in a way that builds strength and helps reduce pain (see my back story below).
Simply playing through it won't always work. Even in that NY Times article, they mentioned modifying your exercise so that you can work out, but still minimize the pain or activity that agrivates your condition. They also mentioned use of anti-inflammatories and ice after each session.
Here's my story on the back issue:
Back when I was in college, I hurt my back working in a grocery store. I also played soccer and tried to play through the pain. It just started a cycle of play hurt, sit around with my back in pain, play hurt, sit around with my back in pain, etc.
It wasn't until I went to physical therapy and they gave me some exercises to strengthen my core and back that I was able to break that cycle.
You may want to think about doing something similar for your tennis game.
Yeah spending a few hours a week doing boring exercises may stink, but if it's worth it if you really love the game. I can't count how much time a spent rehabbing my right (tennis hand) shoulder after I suffered a separated shoulder in a soccer game. It was all worth it once I got back on the tennis courts.
Well, as I mentioned, I already do a lot of these things, though not the sprinting stuff. Perhaps I'll look into it. And I used to do more general strengthening work, but had to cut back considerably because of tennis injuries, but now do specific rotator and TE and knee routines and so on.(Boring!) I also generally pop 3 advil before a match. (Though somewhere I read something about 1 advil being just as effective as an anti-inflammatory.)
But I absolutely disagree with point #5, that I would be hurting anyway even without tennis. I went from being a pain-free guy in his forties who kept fairly fit with weights and walking to a pain racked softie who couldn't lift much weight anymore very quickly after taking up tennis. There was an obvious and dramatic negative effect on my body after taking up tennis. Age + tennis was the problem, not age alone.
Cindy, how did you handle the torn meniscus? Was it painful when you walked/played tennis? How did you tear it? How did you manage from April to September with the injury?
What sort of rehab did you have to go through?
I'm just curious because I have a nagging knee injury, but I can't even really remember actually injuring it. It just sort of started with a minor "strain" and progressed from there. Now it won't go away and I'm curious whether or not it might be some meniscus damage.
Quick two cents from me on this one, TonyB: I had some knee problems, mostly in the left, and went to a doctor last summer. He suggested it was a torn meniscus, and hinted at surgery at some point. I got a second opinion. The second doctor, who examined me differently, thought it likely was NOT a torn meniscus. (They are both just guessing, because I believe you need an MRI to tell for sure.) She suggested simple strengthening exercises.
8 months later, I'm still playing with only minor knee soreness, and less than I had last summer. I mean, still playing when I'm not felled by back, elbow, shoulder, and calf issues, that is...
Ah, the knee saga.
I don't recall a traumatic injury. I do remember changing direction quickly in singles during a match in April and feeling a weird little hitch. Nothing big. (Oh, and I won the point with a great shot, so it was totally worth it!)
Anyway, the knee felt kind of funny after that. Kind of stiff. I couldn't squat anymore, for instance. I now recognize it was mild inflammation, but at the time I had no idea what was going on. I kept running, playing tennis. With each match, it felt a little worse. I started wearing a neophrene brace and kept playing, sometimes with a couple of Advil. The relief from just two would last a couple of days.
Then I entered a tournament in July and played 8 singles/doubles matches in 5 days -- thereby overtraining. I remember feeling a little hitch during one of the matches, but again it didn't hurt really. It just seemed really stiff, but it responded to Advil. That was why it was difficult to recognize as an injury; it didn't hurt when I played or ran, but the function was impaired afterward.
Then I went to see a knee doc in August. He poked around and diagnosed a meniscus tear, confirmed with MRI. Trouble was, he was a terrible doctor. He said, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead and play a tournament; it's torn. You can't make it any worse. Here, take these 800 mg Advil tablets 3 x daily, that way you won't have to take four of the little ones. No, no, don't worry about taking all that Advil. You can take it forever and it won't hurt you. Advil is perfectly safe. The one thing you should avoid is riding a bike, because then you'll grind away the articular cartilage."
Virtually all of this advice is completely wrong. Taking those gigantic horse pills of Advil fried my stomach. Bike riding is great therapy for meniscus problems. And yes, you can aggravate a meniscus tear by playing singles in a tennis tournament. Duh.
I played the tournament in September and it got worse again. By this point, it was hard to walk on uneven surfaces because the knee would wobble, and I had a considerable limp because my leg wouldn't straighten fully. The deficit was 5-8 degrees, which is a lot. I couldn't mow the grass, couldn't walk my son to school, needed Advil to go to the grocery store. I asked around and found a great sports med guy, who advised the surgery, which I had 10 days after the tournament. I figured I might as well, given I couldn't hobble around for 40 years like this.
When he got in, he found a medium complex tear of the meniscus (basically, a section was shredded). He also found that the months of swelling had caused scar tissue to develop (the plica), which he removed.
So. Delaying for months, failing to understand that repeated cycles of inflammation are the enemy, listening to a doc who couldn't find is @ss with both hands were the causes of my troubles.
I started PT about 2 weeks after the surgery. I was able to play again (badly) after about 7 weeks. It was difficult to change direction, and there were lots of little set-backs. Good days and bad days. One such setback was the development of chondromalacia patella 3 months post-op -- scuffing of the articular cartilage. I had to return to PT and do more strengthening, so it's been about 9 months since I finished with that. Now the knee is maybe 95% of what it once was; I can run for an hour, do sprints, play singles.
If you think something is wrong with your knee, go see a good sports med person right away. These things can and do get worse if they are ignored. There are things you can do short of surgery, of course, but delay for the sake of it is not a good plan. I wish I had jumped right on this when it first started.
Let me state the obvious: If you start sprinting or doing hill work, build slowly, 'kay?
When I first read this thread I thought I am glad it is not me.
Now several years later it seems like every time I go out on the court I get an injury. First it was my ankle which took me out for 6-7 weeks. Then it was my knee- another 3-4 weeks. At some point I developed an intense pain in the ball of my foot that went away after about 5 days, but I had to walk on the outside of my foot during that time. The first time I get back on the court I injure my wrist and it now hurts to the point where I can barely grasp anything without pain. True so far nothing has required surgery, but this trend is getting disturbing and I am acquiring different kinds of braces at an alarming rate:shock:
Aha. I'm with Goober (except I haven't had as much trouble).
For me, I had a knee tweak and the whole thing blew up in a matter of minutes and then needed days to get back to normal with pills from the doc. Also, I'm starting to feel it the next day - something new to me. Now, my other knee is giving me a bit of an issue, not to mention stiff arms and shoulders and the occasional shooting pain on the inside of my arm when I grip something, which I am convinced is due to tennis.
To counter this I re-joined a gym last week (trying to make sure the stresses and strains of weight are eradicated) and earlier today spoke to a coach about taking some lessons, something I haven't done in over 20 years.
I'm 36 now and reality is I'm not getting any younger!
Ah, how things have changed. Things have only improved for me since I started this thread. The 2008 season of tennis was probably the least taxing of all for me, and I think I might have taken 2 weeks off total for a minor groin tweak. Otherwise, I never felt better. (Not great, mind you, just better.) It's like my body finally acclimated somewhat, to tennis anyway. (I've got other health issues right now, but not tennis related.)
Of course, I can still feel that groin strain almost a full year later, but anyway, there is hope for such things. It's possible you two fellas are just going through a bad patch and will get through it okay.
About to start the 2009 outdoor season. I'm hoping I can do as well as 2008 health-wise...
I know a guy who beat every singles player on a DivI team at the age of 45. I saw him a month ago and he's like 48 now and is still moving incredible. I also knew a Junior College tennis coach who at age 65 would bicycle 5 miles to work. He would teach like 3 conditioning courses where he did the whole work out with the class. I was in his last class of the day and he would do like 200 crunches in the class. Nobody in the class could keep up with him. I think if you haven't exercised intensely for a long time it may take you a couple of years to get in great shape, unless you give up.
(Somebody had to say it )
I don't get it.
heycal - glad to read the outcome. spoke with another player in mid 40s who started back after a long layoff and now plays competitive tourneys. being a bit older ;-) , asked the player about aches, injuries and such. he stated that the knees would swell/hurt but after a while the body recovered and got used to it. keeping my fingers crossed and legs moving here...inertia or something like that.
I had no problems until age 49. Then I had to flee Hurricane Katrina, leaving my rackets behind, and didn't get them for two months. Then, until I found a backboard for practice, was about six more months. When I started again, I got injury after injury. Two of my injuries were from trying to develop a left-handed serve -- first a shoulder irritation and then tennis elbow (no, not golfer's elbow). I'm still trying to work out a motion that won't irritate it. Then it was a torn meniscus that mostly healed, then back pain / sciatica from a foolish decision to try a few two-handed strokes for the heck of it. Then there's the achilles tendenitis that crept up on me.
Now that I know about eccentric exercises for tendinitis, I am beginning to get the elbow and achilles under control. But I've lost a lot of quickness in the last four years, and I'm afraid to train hard to try and get it back.
A 15+ pound weight gain didn't help; and dieting didn't work to lose it. (I tried cutting back on calories, but it made me often feel hungry).
But my general advice for playing into middle-age and beyond is to ditch the extreme grips and two-handed shots in favor of grips that give you more reach, and try to stop jumping around so much. Pros today jump when the serve, jump when they hit a ground-stroke, jump when their opponent serves or hits a ground stroke, gets into position to hit with a series of little jumps, etc. In the old days, you'd take a split step as your opponent served, and maybe once as you approached the net, and that was it.
Man, all this talk of injuries is depressing. I think I'll just enjoy being 20 for now.
Why did you try and develop a left handed serve in the first place?
I agree with much of this, but in my case I switched to a two-handed bh because of tennis elbow from the one hander. Sure my back started aching from time to time, but that was better than TE. Pick your poison, I guess...
I've ditched formal stretching before a match all together, and now spent all my pre-match time trying to run and skip around the court and get the body warmed up and hopefully break a tiny bit of a sweat. Coincidentally or not, I've suffered fewer injuries of any kind since adopting this method.
Take advantage of it! It'll be gone before you know it..
heycal...I feel your pain. I quit playing tennis for ten years (marriage, kids, work etc.). When I "retired" ten years ago, I was a solid 5.0 (sectional ranking top 15). I started playing again in Feb 2010 (I had added about 25lbs muscle and 15 lbs-fat since my prior playing days), hitting with a 5.0-5.5 player. Ten minutes into our hitting session, I feel/hear a "pop" below my left calf. It hurt, but I thought it was a cramp or just tight muscles. I finished the session, went home and R.I.C.E.'d my injury. I played several more times, over the next 1.5 months, with a bit of tightness in my calf, but now my knee, right elbow and right shoulder started to ache. I continued to ice these areas after matches. Sunday/March 14, I'm playing a Flex league match, I run up to the net to retrieve a drop shot and I go down, like I had been shot! Boom-boom out go the lights. The next thing I remember is writhing around on the ground holding my right calf/ankle. Excruciating pain...diagnosis...ruptured Achilles tendon..full tear. I had surgery 2+ weeks ago. I'm in a cast/walking boot for the next 5-6 months! The moral of the story is ease back into it, dynamic stretching and keep your weight within a few lbs of your last playing weight.
I think he just chose a random word because you asked for "any words of wisdom".
I'm glad Heycal has turned the corner. Me, I have one foot in the grave.
In September, I had a stress fracture and bone bruise in what had previously been called "My Good Knee." That healed with six weeks rest, but it still isn't where it needs to be.
This weekend, I tweaked "My Bad Knee." I was relieved that it rained today and my mixed team was bounced from the playoffs, because it means I can get some rest.
I had Snow Shovel Wrist from the Snowcalypse in February. If I break my wrist on my FH just once, I get a nice stabbing sensation to remind me to keep my racket head up.
I have just a teensy bit of TE, and my old PF said "Hello!" this Sunday.
I guess that's just the way it will be from now on. Still, I think back trouble, shoulder trouble and ankle trouble can be far worse than knee trouble, so I will count my blessings that those bits of me are still healthy.
This is the one that worries me. I'm 40 (feels weird typing that) and in many ways in better shape than ever. I've never been in great shape but I've never been in bad shape either. I actually perform as good or better physically than I did 10-15 years ago, but I'm just more achy in general and for a longer period of time and I worry that my achilles tendon may be my Achilles Heel. Minor aches and/or stiffness back there at times but I like to cut and run after the ball and pride myself on getting to shots my opponents don't think I'll reach. But when I feel that twinge, I think, 'Oh Lord, is this night going to end with a doctor telling me my leg will be in a cast for the next 8 years?'. Still, I play on so I'll feel really stupid if it ever did happen. Knock on...
enjoying this thread. My story, mid 30's-not young, not old, playing for about 6 yrs and have never worked at somthing this hard for this long and I'm still only a middling 3.5 player. that said I have been 'knock on wood' relatively injury free with only nagging aches here and there.
I hope to play this game till I go to my grave and have determined that the only way to do it right is to put aside my macho pride and listen to my body. When it barks, listen to it!
I must admit I have given up many a ball and even a few matches b/c minor strains on one ball can turn into a tear on the next ball. I was telling my older brother this one day and he was dissappointed that I lost my competitive edge. He promptly tore his rotator cuff diving for a football in a game of two hand touch againt teenagers. Moral: We ain't getting younger and our best athletic days are behind us.
I NEVER stretch prior to playing. Only afterwards.
I do band work and exercises using my own body weight mainly core work but quit lifting weights. For some reason (prob bad technique) whenever I get a weightlifting routine going I invariably tweak something in my back. so I listen to my body and have stopped the weights and feel great.
If I was fitter, strong and faster I would be a better player BUT I know myself and I just don't have the genetics in the long run to withstand the punishment and tennis threatening injuries will def ensue.
I am a believer in Advil/motrin but it does kill my stomach if I over do it. I always take it with food and occasionally do the motrin/ zantac cocktail.
I must say that my ego has taken a bruising by being very judicious on when to go all out when by nature I am a competitive person- I hope in the long run by being a healthier tennis player I will enjoy it for longer and be better overall by not being limited with significant injuries. I'm thinking the 60 yr old who can still move, deadly efficient, systematically taking apart the young whippersnappers. Dreaming? maybe..but that's my plan for now.
The two most common ways of getting tennis elbow are (1) hitting your backhand incorrectly, and (2) hitting your backhand correctly. Yes, when I was learning 35 years ago beginners got tennis elbow from hitting slice backhand incorrectly, but pros who hit the backhand correctly were vulnerable to getting tennis elbow when trying to add topspin.
I remember one article in Esquire or some such men's magazine back around 1970 by guy writing about his tennis elbow. His advice was never to hit a flat or wristy backhand. (Since the author said he first felt something snap when he hit single successful topspin backhand winner in a doubles match, I guess he meant that to avoid tennis elbow you should hit only slice on the backhand side.)
I was trying to develop a lefty serve because I suspected that I was born a left-hander but changed as a toddler on the advice of a left-handed grandmother who warned my mother to change me before I went to school while my brain was more plastic (not her words) to save me the heartache she suffered as a lefty in school around 1910. The result was that neither hand is good and neither hand is bad; I don't serve well with either hand. I figured at least if I could serve left-handed I'd have the advantage of unusual spin, and I could use the easiest serve (the slice) as my bread-and-butter serve. I can't say it worked out well, but then, despite playing for 35 years my strokes are still slowly (!!) but steadily improving -- so there's hope yet!
I think you answered your own question here. There is a lot of decent advice in this thread and others already, so I'm just adding my agreement that yes, all the pain, boring stretches and strengthening, etc etc etc is worth it, precisely because you are asking these questions and still enjoying the game, pain and tedium et al.
If you didn't enjoy the game, you would have already quit and not posted hundreds of times on this board. And yes, I realize this thread is 3 years old.
Yes, i am not 30 yet, so I know nature has a lot in store for me ahead, but this year began my injury initiation: TE, knee pain, and a hernia. However, the fun and timelessness of this game keeps me going. I've put off surgery just to keep playing my pointless tennis leagues, to junkball whenever possible, and I still run and reach for every ball I can. Perhaps I should adjust my game, as I still throw my body around the court as if I was still 16. But what else is a lanky, fleet-footed guy to do? Sure, I should probably take some pace of my serve and forehand, but the best feeling on court is sending that shot into the corner uncontested, isn't it?
Until I'm in a cast, sling, crippled, or blind, I will keep on playing precisely because tennis is just so damn fun. I did start to play a lot of doubles lately though, I guess I need to get ready now for the inevitable inability to play singles later on in life. But that said, I still play singles against guys almost twice my age and they can hang with me, so what was my point? I forget. Go Tennis!
Hi everyone. My name is penpal, and I'm an injureholic.
It's been zero days since my last injury - stomach muscle strain.
I'm 42 and have been playing since about 31. Have torn both calf muscles, bruised my ribs (got my foot caught in the netting and went down hard on my chest), sprained an ankle, hurt my lower back, received cortisone shots in my shoulder and both feet, and miscellaneous others.
My wife calls me China Doll
But the good news is that most of the really serious stuff happened early on. I think there really is an adjustment period when your body is getting used to the new things you are asking it to do.
I agree with all of this. Taking some time off (for me from November to March) and focusing on conditioning really seems to help, both with letting the nagging injury stuff heal, but also to get strong enough that I can take a less is more approach and not have the feeling that I'm not doing enough.
Jeez, how times change! 13 months on and I've been through it a little. I did start taking some lessons, but last May I fractured my elbow playing football (soccer) and had to have a lay-off, which also led me to cancel my gym subscription. I also stopped using Luxilon strings and the shoulder / arm pains have gone. I'm currently trying tensions at around 35-40 from my usual 60-65 but that's a different story...
Point is, I sound like a right old whinge bag in that post. And truth is, in the last 3 or so months I have been playing the best tennis of my life.
So all in all, I say never retire! Just find a different way of doing it!
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