“My tennis elbow won’t go away” (Letter to ACE recently)
I wonder if the Chief Medical Advisor to the LTA Dr Michael Turner has ever
suffered from Tennis Elbow? Thousands of tennis (and squash) players up and down
the country, including myself, have suffered from this painful and alarming condition.
What can be done? Well, a lot more than Dr Turner suggests. Yes, it is regrettably
true that anyone going to their doctor with a painful elbow will be advised to rest it
for several weeks if not months. Most GP’s will understand the physiological side of
things and will treat the conditions as overuse. They play safe by advising rest.
Here are a few well-tried and reliable things to try before you throw yourself at the
mercy of the orthopaedic surgeon. They work!!
SIX WAYS TO SAVE YOUR ELBOW By Liam Nolan, Technical Director, UK
Racket Stringers Association and Master Racket Technician, USRSA.
1. RACKET FLEX – Have you got the right racket? Each tennis frame will flex a
little or a lot. The less it flexes on contact with the ball, the more shock is driven into
the elbow tissues. Look at the width of the racket “hoop” The narrower it is the better
for your elbow. Tim Henman’s choice of racket flex is an ideal example.
2. STRING CHOICE – Natural gut string is an absolute saviour for players with
Tennis Elbow. Yes, it is more expensive but the benefits are immense. Natural gut has
the ability to absorb harmful shock whilst still delivering an unmatched power return
to the ball. Stay well away from Polyester and Kevlar Hybrids. About 30% of Eastern
European players spend 3 months or more each year, out of competition with Tennis
Elbow, probably due to their use of cheap polyester strings.
3. STRING TENSION – Lower your tension. This will allow more of the impact
shock to be absorbed and will deliver more power to your shot. Most of the top
professionals shy away from high tensions. Tensions of around 53 lbs for a normal
size frame (95 sq ins) are about right.
4. RACKET WEIGHT – Avoid ultra lightweight rackets. The more mass you have
available to meet the ball the less worry for your poor old elbow. If you cannot be
parted from your lightweight racket, then ask a competent stringer to add lead weight
to the frame around the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. Use a qualified stringer (preferably
USRSA) for this work.
5. INCREASE GRIP SIZE – Use a towel or similar to get the biggest grip size feel
that you can handle (sorry) and then use grips to adjust your racket. Do not use more
that two grips as the natural feel of the bevels will be rounded off. A good stringer
will be able to add heat shrink sleeves to build up the grip size and retain the bevels.
6. SOFT GRIP – Use a cushion grip, this will absorb lots of the shock.
7. VIBRATION DAMPENERS – These will assist in the absorption of shock and
vibration, harmful to the soft arm and shoulder tissues.
Steroidal injections are an absolute last resort and are NOT a solution to Tennis
Elbow. They will allow a quicker recovery but are useless and potentially dangerous
if the recovering player walks back into the same old trap. The above seven golden
rules have got many young and seasoned players back onto court, they get far more
out of their game, play better shots and are able to lift a pint glass afterwards without
Liam Nolan can be contacted at www.ukrsa.com