If you play competitive tennis or league tennis, competitively, it will happen more than once in your lifetime that you suffer an injury. Most common are muscle pulls and tears, tendonitis and sprains. Some injuries you can play through, and some are so painful that you can barely stand. But maybe your team is at risk of moving down a level, and can’t afford to forfeit a line. Maybe your team wants to move up a level and needs the points.
Do you play tennis any way?
The obvious answer is that if you want to recover from a tennis injury, you need to rest your body and take time off from playing. However, depending on the nature of your injury – AS DETERMINED BY YOUR DOCTOR – it is possible for you to continue playing for a short time and rest the injury later.
Playing injured puts a new perspective on your tennis game. No longer can you rely on a “normal” game plan, because the injury may not allow you to execute your shots the same way. The tennis match now turns into more of a thinking game, and your brain becomes your strongest weapon.
About 8 years ago, I developed a bucket tear to my meniscus mid-season, but I went ahead and finished out the season because a) the team (me included) wanted to move up to the next level and couldn’t do it without me; b) an MRI determined my injury required surgery, and that I wouldn’t cause any further damage by continuing to play; c) though I couldn’t move as well, I still had most of my weapons and a great partner who picked up the slack; d) Celebrex, Celebrex, Celebrex.
It was worth it because we made the points to move up, and the day after the last match I went into surgery and had my meniscus repaired, and am now back on the courts, stronger than ever.
Some players, like myself, believe it is best not to let your opponent know you are injured. It could give them a psychological advantage over you, and allow them to change their strategy to take advantage of the situation. On the other hand, it has been proven time and time again, even in the pro ranks, that one of the most difficult things to do is play against someone who is injured because you let down and become distracted. Every case is different, and it really depends on how you handle the situation.
** It is possible for you to be successful in playing with an injury, assuming it doesn’t severely impact your movement or stroke production. And if this is what you decide on doing, and your doctor has given you the green light, these are just a few tips to help you survive on the court – and hopefully win:
- Take an anti-inflammatory 30 minutes prior to your match, wear appropriate wraps/braces during the match, and apply ice after the match.
- Only play matches which you think you can win. If not, why bother with the pain and risk of further injury?
- In doubles, have your partner play more aggressively at the net. Poaching can help shorten points and get you off the court sooner.
- Hit deep approach shots, preferably up the middle to cut down the angle of their return, and come to net.
- If your opponent serves and volleys, and rushes the net – lob and make them go back for the ball. If in doubles, lob over the person already at the net, forcing the person rushing in to do an awkward one-eighty to go back and get it.
- Figure out your opponent’s weaknesses during the warm up, and attack them mercilessly – because if/when they figure out you’re injured, that’s exactly what they’ll do to you.
- Focus on big points and take advantage of every opportunity.
Whether you win or lose, or even if you don’t finish the match, just make sure you take care of your injury. At some point, you’ll be faced with the decision to take enough time off so that your body can fully recover. Only you can decide when the right time will be, but please know that continuing to play could make the injury worse.
Listen to your body and remember – it’s only a game.
** NOTE: You should see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and to see if going back out on the court is even possible. Then have the doctor advise how you should treat it before, during and after play.