Predicament of Injuries in Tennis History - TennisForum.com
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 14th, 2004, 03:49 PM Thread Starter
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Predicament of Injuries in Tennis History

I have given a lot of thought to the issue of so many players today missing 6 months at a time and having to waste additional time "coming back" -- it hurts the player's momentum, it hurts the development of rivalries, it hurts the tournament's ability to draw top players and have them show up, it hurts fans of the sport and takes away from the possibilities of new tennis enthusiasts learning of the game from top rivalries, not to mention seeing all the best play the sport could offer by the best players healthy, all at once. And of course, for all our talk about the top players and rankings in different years; this is becoming irrevelant...no top player ever finishes more than one year without sitting out half the next. (...Except our living miracle, roger federer!)

What we see now in grand slam semis and finals are the quarterfinal bouts of yesterday because half the top seeds are always out.

Imagine the dent in history if mcenroe and borg hadnt been able to compete and create the mythology of their rivalry. Imagine borg NOT winning 4 french and wimbledon titles back-to-back because he had a twisted shoulder, a heel spur, or a stomach tear!

I read or heard that 8 of the top 10 women had been out due to injury for at least 3 months in the last year. This is unparalleled in the history of tennis and it makes tennis seem like an 'extreme' sport instead of an intellectual one, and certainly at the very least 'a sport for a lifetime' as it has always been called.

I'd love some non-general-message-board thinkers opinions on this as well as some history, for both the men and women, as this issue affects WTA concerns, and may be best illustrated through some ATP examples. Certainly Tracy and Andrea Jaeger had their careers cut short, as did Jimmy Arias, perhaps due to playing too early with not enough knowledge of pacing and muscle development.

But today's players are having injuries from match play, and I can't think of any other factors than the equipment issue, which has been raised to the ITF purely on the grounds of causing the sport to become too one-dimensional, one-style, and in effect, too boring...or as Martina Nav put it, bluntly but fairly, "too easy". But a greater issue, the health of the players bodies, the alleged health of the sport itself, the health of rivalries and full tournament draws, seems to still be overlooked.

I am not sure what year they changed the ball to add speed to the sport, but the racquet size/weight issue "weighs in" on the amount of pounding a body takes with little recovery period WITHIN the course of a POINT...where we used to see enough time to bounce and get into positon, now the strain is felt on a constant basis, and at greater velocity, per stroke per point, cumulatively, per match, per tournament.

Coria lost a beloved french open final because of it. In 1978, he would've won in the demolishing manner that Borg beat Vilas. But imagine Borg getting a leg pull and having Vilas win, not for being the suprior player but by surviving. What is this, ancient rome?

It has been suggested that players ARE developing earlier and earlier, and that this may be causing injuries, but it really seems to me that we are mostly seeing on-court injuries from on-court strain. It has also been suggested to me that all the weight-training is adding to the strain because of constant use of the muscles but I would assume weight training could work toward preventing injuries as much as causing them.

I really feel it imperative that issues be clearly defined and presented to the ITF, as these young players are just accepting the sport that is being handed to them...they don't know what they (and the fans) are missing in terms of quality, and want to keep things as they know them. But they seem oblivous that there has probably been more time-out in the top ten men & women due to injuries in the last 3 or 4 years than in the last 30 combined.

Thoughts, statistics, history, contacts at the ITF??

Last edited by daze11; Aug 14th, 2004 at 03:57 PM.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 14th, 2004, 04:56 PM
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It's amazing to me how many top players get injured and stay injured these days. I honestly don't know why but it definitely hurts tennis and you'd better believe it hurts tennis promoters who are trying their hardest to put on big tennis events with outrageous prize money. I'm a true believer in thinking long term when it comes to injuries. In other words, don't risk more damage if there is a significant chance of doing so.....especially in a non-Slam event. But these days pros don't seem to mind just simply disappearing as Myskina reportedly did in Poland yesterday.

Are there more injuries because of the physiologically disturbing grips and techniques? Is it because so much tennis now is played on hard courts? Or could it be that today's top players are less likely to be sensitive to the needs of the promotors, sponsors, fans, and the tour itself? I don't know the answer but these are some suggestions that often come up.

All I know is that players like BJK, Martina, Chris, etc rarely ever defaulted or withdrew from tournaments. They often played with whatever aches and pains may have plagued them. They came from an era where womens tennis was totally different than it is today. Maybe they appreciated what they had more and realized that the health of the game truly depended upon them to attract fans and sponsors.

It just seems odd that the Williams sisters have defaulted more times already than players like Martina ever did in 20+ years of playing pro tennis. They're just an example because there are a lot more top players out there that seem to default when they just don't feel like playing.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 14th, 2004, 05:39 PM
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1. Playing 80-90% of your tennis on Hardcourts
2. Hitting every shot as hard as you possibly can

One wears on your lower body, the other on your upper. Now that we've moved to the "superior" racquet technology, players can generate unimaginable pace on the ball. Once wooden racquets left the scene, the new racquets allowed power tennis to take over. Maybe the biggest detriment to the game is not the one-dimensional nature of todays game, but the fact that the human body is not designed to perform in the manner the game requires it to. I mean look at the list of players with long-term nagging injuries: Seles, Venus, Serena, Davenport, Mauresmo, Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne... these aren't dainty little pixies. If their bodies can't handle it, maybe something's wrong.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 16th, 2004, 05:10 PM
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You are absolutely right, daze, and you already know I agree with nearly everything you posted. To me, it seems like the major influence behind the steady, gradual, and then more recently drastic rise in player injury is a direct by-product of open tennis itself. Far be it from me to express a desire that tennis return to the private country club setting, because I most certainly am not a proponent of that kind of exclusive school of thought- the game is a beautiful thing, and ought to be experienced in all of its intricacies and everyone should have access to the mind game that is the sport of playing tennis.

Open tennis did much more than provide prize money for professional athletes, it brought tennis into and subject to big-time corporate dollars, and the influence and control this entails. Tennis as an industry is what drives our sport, and any professional sport for that matter. You are correct in your depiction of the player of today having more in common with a Roman Gladiator than the tennis player ideal. Tennis began as the sport of kings (sphairistike: see http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-sph2.htm), and when royalty lost its grasp and license to the game, and it was made available to the general populace, it simultaneously became the same kind of entertainment the Gladiators provided for the Patrician powers that be. There is no turning back from this now- tennis is an industry.

What's to be done to return that original (and safer) beauty to the game? I am an outspoken proponent to returning to the mathematical restrictions afforded by a standard size racquet. Making any frame outside of these specific perimeters illegal for professional use would serve to reduce not only the number of injuries, but also reduce the knee-jerk slap-shot style of play we see today. Like any major sweeping change, there will be a period of a few years of transition where the game will seem to be suffering greatly, and indeed it will be in pain- the throes of rebirthing needed to save our great game from morphing into the rollerball oblivion of a tedious video game. No need to return to wood. Simply limit the size of the face of the racquet to standard proportions. Make it out of titanium, graphite composites, fiberglass, space-age materials- I don't care. Just limit the size of the frame. This will work. It is a mathematical certainty.

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 16th, 2004, 05:39 PM
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Another thing that's causing a lot of these injuries is how so many of these players try so hard to just bang the serve in as hard as they can. Bend the back way back, now twist it around, jump up into the serve and slam it as hard as you can. My back hurts just watching them. With some players every serve has to be an ace.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 16th, 2004, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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here's a snippet i found of steve flink discussing the topic of injuries:

This topic might take us too many weeks to cover thoroughly, and even then we might not get to the bottom of it. There is no doubt that the game has become increasingly physical. It think those who are not willing to call tennis a contact sport don’t know what they are talking about. The injuries on both the men’s and women’s tours have been mounting alarmingly in recent years. The trainers are more sophisticated than ever, the players do extensive work off the court to stay in shape and prevent injuries, and yet they keep getting hurt.

Is this all a result of the power element? Yes and no. Because players are across the board serving bigger, hitting harder and punishing their bodies in the process, they are ridiculously susceptible to getting hurt. But I think it is more than the power of today’s players--- it is their athleticism that creates some of the problems. By and large, they cover the court with more alacrity, they have to change direction and recover during points to a greater degree than their predecessors, and it all takes it toll. Did Hingis have to leave the game terribly prematurely at 22 because of the power she confronted in her adversaries, or was she poorly advised on shoe equipment and training techniques? Do Venus and Serena suffer with their physical maladies because they have not trained the right way or because of the violent nature of their stroke production? Do open stances compound the problem for some competitors since they are forced to play the game that way to counter the big hitting of opponents?

Frankly, I don’t have all the answers. Either way, there is no shortage of injuries in either tour, and that is worrisome.
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