BY MELISSA BAUDO MARCHETTI, PT, DPT, SCS, MTC
As the ATP and WTA seasons come to a close, professional tennis athletes will enter their off-season to decompress, recharge and rehab their injuries in preparation for the upcoming 2019 season.
Unlike other professional sports where the off-season may be several months, tennis is unique with an off-season that may only be a few weeks. Tennis medicine experts recommend taking a minimum of two to four weeks away from the court in order to have a healthier season ahead. As colder weather approaches in Atlanta, consider the following tips for your own tennis off-season.
For those of you who play in multiple tennis leagues throughout the entire year (and sometimes play on multiple teams in the same season), consider taking a few weeks off to rest your body this winter. Playing every day or consecutive days is simply too much for recreational players and can lead to overuse injuries. You need recovery days. When you start back next season, build at least two rest days into your week to allow proper recovery. Your tennis racquet may miss you, but your body will thank you.
Your body requires sleep to recover physically and mentally. If you are running on empty and need three cups of coffee to get your day going, you may not be getting enough sleep. Get to bed early, power down your electronics and get your Zs.
If you have a current injury or are dealing with some nagging aches and pains, now is a good time to address those issues and seek care from your physical therapist. Georgia is a state that has direct access, so you can seek care from a physical therapist without a referral, although your insurance company or provider may still require one.
Stay warm this winter season and take your workouts inside to a local gym or exercise studio to address your flexibility, mobility and strength deficits. Cross-training is critical for tennis players since the sport is so demanding. Pilates is an exceptional method of movement that focuses on spinal mobility and core control. Yoga can focus on lengthening tight, short muscles, realigning the spine and enhancing core stability and balance. CrossFit and high-intensity interval training like Orange Theory Fitness are great ways to build strength, endurance and power. Enhancing flexibility, spinal mobility, core control, strength, power and endurance will help renew your game.
Unless you’re in the best physical condition to handle the directional changes and pounding, tennis will take a big toll on your body. Get a massage! Massage is a great way to restore sore, tired muscles and enhance circulation.
Epsom salt baths are an excellent way to relax your muscles. The magnesium sulphate in the salts will absorb through your skin and is a natural muscle relaxer; additionally, it decreases excitation of nerves and aids with sleep. Limit your soak to 30 minutes, perform before bedtime, and follow the directions on the label for how much Epsom salts to add to your bath (as a general rule, use no more than 2 cups at a time).
Whole body cryotherapy is a quick and easy way to release norepinephrine in the bloodstream, which can decrease pain and enhance attention span and mood. Cryotherapy enhances immune function and decreases inflammation. Inflammation has been proven to not only be a key cause for the aging process, but to also be behind at least 80 percent of all disease. So, chill out this off-season!
If your diet has taken a detour or you are feeling sluggish, you may not be properly fueling your body. We are what we eat and drink. So, get rid of the junk food and soda, and replace it with a balanced diet, including lean protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Watch the alcohol and caffeine intake as they can have negative effects on your sleep, mood and hormones. We don’t get as much sun during the winter months, which means your vitamin D may get too low. Vitamin D has many roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation. Get your vitamin D checked and, if needed, supplement your vitamin D this winter.
Even though it may be getting colder outside, you still need to hydrate. Your body needs water all the time, not just in high heat and humidity. Ensure that you are staying hydrated by drinking half your body weight in ounces in water. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day.
It may be time to take inventory on your equipment. Tennis shoes, braces, grip and strings wear out with use. Continuing to play with worn equipment can cause injuries. Ensure that your racquet is the right size and weight for your body, that your strings are the optimal tension, and your grip fits your hand.
Dynamic warm-up and post-tennis stretching routines are critical for keeping you healthy and injury-free, and can enhance your performance. So, this off-season, take time to review how to perform a proper tennis warm-up and cool-down and incorporate it into your routine.
The off-season is an excellent time to recover from the long tennis season and address both nagging injuries as well as prevent future injury. Physical therapists can assist in your training and performance and keep you on the court safely. Take advantage of the many options and preventive strategies available so you can stay happy and healthy on and off the court.
Dr. Baudo Marchetti is a board-certified sports clinical specialist at One on One Physical Therapy, a multidisciplinary private practice in Atlanta. She is a former sports physiotherapist for the WTA tour and is a tennis medicine expert. She teaches a sports physical therapy course and assists in teaching orthopedics within the division of physical therapy at Emory University. You can email her at Melissa@onetherapy.com. Visit www.melissabaudo.com for free videos on dynamic warm-up and cool-down stretching. Learn more by visiting www.onetherapy.com.