Tennis Elbow- Are "players" Racquets Safer? I don'

Discussion in 'Health & Fitness' started by hifi heretic, Aug 3, 2004.

  1. hifi heretic

    hifi heretic Rookie

    Mar 30, 2004
    My take on the racquet issue:

    Based on the recommendations of "" I went out and bought a heavy, headlight, flexible players racquet (Yonex RDTi 70 Long) to replace my Prince Scream. To my dismay, my tennis-elbow continued to get worse. About six months later, I selected yet another racquet, this time something a bit further down the list, but with a slightly larger sweetspot – a Wilson prostaff (don’t remember exact model). Again, the tennis elbow grew worse (despite playing only 2-3 times per week). Now, my tennis elbow is so bad that I’m scheduled to have it fixed arthroscopically later this month. Damn, no tennis for 3-6 mos.

    My personal feeling is that the logic employed on racquetresearch in generating these recommendations is somewhat flawed. The whole premise – as I understand it – is that heavier, more flexible (what we generally regard as a players racquets) are much better for tennis elbow because they “rebound” less (greater weight), and will absorb more of the energy (greater flex) at the point of impact. Theoretically, this seems to make sense. Unfortunately, my experience – and that of more than a few people I know who have made similar racquet changes based on RR’s advice – doesn’t seem to follow (nearly everyone I know claimed their arms got worse).

    While I did find a heavier racquet felt somewhat more damped on impact, I also found that the effort required preparing for shots AND the effort to slow the racquet down on follow through was much greater with a heavy racquet. Think about hitting a forehand. The shot begins by first accelerating the racquet from the front/Center “ready” position backward toward your forehand side, and then you must decelerate the racquet, change directions, and accelerate once again toward the ball. Finally impact occur, but now the racquet needs to be decelerated again as you end the follow-through. Only during the actual “impact” does the heavier racquet have an advantage – during all the accelerating, decelerating, and direction changes, a lighter racquet would (so it seems to me) be easier on the forearm muscles and the tendons that attach them to the bone.

    As for the flexibility issue, I think it’s true that a flexible frame feels softer on impact, but it seemed like so much more effort was required to get the same amount of pace. A couple of my playing partners observed that my swing – after changing to a “players” racquet – suddenly grew longer. Without really noticing, I was having to generate more racquet speed to compensate for the lack of power that used to be generated by my “tweener” racquet”. ..Not only was I using a racquet that took more effort to maneuver, but I had to swing it with more force to get the same speed! Double ouch.

    The author on RR uses no human-subjects to test his claims. Instead, he supports his argument by pointing to the fact that racquets were much heavier when we were kids and yet tennis elbow was almost non-existent. Well, it may be true that TE was less prevalent, but that could also be due to the fact that Tennis then was more of a finesse game than the gorilla pounding sport that it has become. Watch old footage of McEnroe and Borg – they hit wayyy softer than today’s players (not a dig! ..I love watching those guys play).

    The other evidence he sites is that Pros – who typically (though this is changing!!) use heavy/ flexible racquets – rarely develop tennis elbow. This too may be true, but this could also be – according to one of my doctors – due to the fact that pros give up competitive tennis while they are still quite young. All of the research I have read states that Tennis elbow tends to show up much later in life – generally after 40. My doctor claims that many (though certainly not all) WILL indeed develop tennis elbow as they head into their 40’s. Of course, we’ll never hear about it because they will have long given up competitive play by that point (alright, Martina and John Mac aside).

    I don’t dispute that racquets may have something to do with tennis-elbow, but I think it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Other pieces include: genetics (people with taut, sinewy forearms – according to my doctor – seem to be more at risk because their stronger muscles exert more “pulling” on the tendon); form (hitting late is a killer!); and pre-disposing injuries or activities (lots of keyboard punching or handwriting being two possible examples).

    As for racquets, after my surgery I’m going to stick with a moderately light (10.5 oz), moderately powerful racquet with a fairly generous sweetspot strung with a fairly soft string.
  2. dozu

    dozu Banned

    Feb 19, 2004
    You are right in the sense that RR is only one piece of the puzzle. However it's a good guideline so that you have limited number of rackets to choose from.

    2 things come to my mind and excuse my frankness. If you are using a 10.5 oz racket, you are probably a 3.5 player. and probably need to correct your technique first. a 10.5 oz racket may get you by hitting back a ball from another 3.5 player, but if you are facing a 4.5 player, that racket will be knock out of your hand.

    On the other hand, a heavy racket forces you to use smooth power to hit the ball. From you post above it sounds like you are tring to muscle the ball. Accelerating and deccelerating of the racket should be smooth and effortless, regardless how heavy the racket is. Before the graphite age women and children had to use woodies that are 14.5 oz minimum.

    The racket you tried.... the Wilson is not exactly arm friendly.... actually all Wilson rackets are relatively stiff. The Yonex is OK, but not among the most arm friendly ones.

    Last year I had bad elbow problem (from using a lighter racket) and had been searching extensively for a forgiving one. and here are the ones I tried:

    ProKennex 5G.... it has the reputation to be elbow sufferer's racket. It's very comfortable. and has decent power among player's rackets.... definitely try this one, based on your skill level.

    Volkl S10.. a Classic players racket, but maybe too demanding for you.

    Dunlop MW 200G.. very flexible, comfortable racket.

    Dunlop revelation Select Pro.. this is a discontinued racket and the one I finally settled down on. It is at 62 flex, and has the ISIS handle system, therefore the most friendly to my elbow. I have been using this one for close to 2 years now and my elbow is 90% healed.

    Head Classic. This one is even more flexible than the Dunlop, however does not have the ISIS type shock absorption at the handle. and the sweetspot maybe small if you are used to tweeners.

    by the way, I usually add some lead to the racket head to enhance stability, and also add lots of lead under the handle to make it about 12 point head light! so even though my racket is around 13.5 oz, it "feels" very light and manuverable. I am a 4.5-5.0 player.

    Good luck.
  3. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

    Oct 3, 2004
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Puzzle pieces

    I found that the RR advice was good, but it too did not
    solve my TE problem which I struggled with for many
    many years. It was so frustrating to have to take 2 weeks
    off every few months because of a pain in a tiny spot
    on my arm.
    Anyway, I use a heavy, flexible frame.
    But my TE did not go away until one day someone told me
    McEnroe played with string tension of 48 pounds.
    A light went off and I realized that I had not tried this.
    I loosened my strings to 45 pounds and the problem
    of tennis elbow became history for me.
    I have since found I can go as high as 48 pounds with
    my frame.
    BTW I also used the ProKennex 5G and it is indeed a very good
    frame for TE.
    Hope this helps you.
  4. Fred132

    Fred132 Rookie

    Feb 20, 2004
    If your technique is bad, no racquet will cure your TE.

    All other things being equal, a heavy, head-light, flexible racquet is best for arm & shoulder problems.
  5. Marius_Hancu

    Marius_Hancu G.O.A.T.

    Oct 29, 2004
    Montreal, Canada
    Player's (heavy) racquets _are_ safer, but not all.

    I am using Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 (loaded with lead tape to 410g, thus very heavy) and Wilson Tour 90 (loaded with lead tape to 385g), and I feel very well in terms of tennis elbow at string tensions of 68lbs, thus quite high.

    However, Wilson Hyper 6.1 kills me with TE, after 2hrs of play, such that I can't play a week. This at about 65lbs. Seems to be a quite rigid/stiff frame.

    I think that the advice given here about Wilson racquets being tougher on the arm is correct. Head seems better in this respect, also Pro-Kennex. Generally, use the Customer Feedback available at the T-W site and you will be fine.

    However, the solution to the TE it's not just the racquet and the strings, it's also your conditioning.

    If you have TE, stop playing for 2 months or whatever necessary to have absolutely no pain, then start working with free weights and machines for your arms and shoulders, starting with small ones (say 3lbs), then gradually increasing the loads. If pain starts again, reduce or take a break.

    If your muscles are neglected, all the shocks are transmitted to the tendons and TE shows up.

    I am doing now each winter 4-months of heavy conditioning and now I am fine in terms of TE and fitter than ever before.

    Sites to consult on TE:

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