Q. After being away from tennis for years, I decided to play again at a competitive level. At the age of 45 my body clearly needs to be reeducated with specific tennis movements. I have had a partial calf tear and quadriceps pull in the last ten weeks...what can you suggest for this former Division 1 player. Is there hope?
A. Yes, there is. The minor injuries you report are not surprising given you took some time away from the game; your 45 year old body is trying very hard to re-adapt to the movements that your much younger body used to do in a repetitive way. The calf tear and quadriceps pull are examples of muscular strains, where the muscle is overloaded - most likely due to the repetitive use they experience as you play tennis. We would recommend getting your body in better condition prior to resuming the high level of play you are striving for.
For example, ensure that your body has a solid aerobic base by conditioning yourself, perhaps on an exercise bike three times a week for 30 minutes. This will improve your cardiovascular function and endurance as well as your muscular strength. In addition, it is very important to perform an active warm-up prior to playing, especially given the injuries you are reporting.
Ensure that your body is properly warmed up by doing some light jogging around the court and some dynamic movements such as shuffling, lunges, and butt kicks. This will help you prepare your legs for some of the stresses they experience when playing tennis.
Also, after you play, be sure to stretch your calves and hamstrings and quadriceps using slow holds (static stretching). Improving your aerobic fitness, properly warming up, and stretching should help make your return to tennis both more enjoyable and injury free.