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Exercise Physiology: Physical Burnout

How much tennis is too much tennis?  This is an important question to ask, especially when considering the amount of stress that is placed on a tennis player’s body?  How many balls can a player hit without putting undue stress on the shoulder?   Is a player really given enough time to recover between matches or practices?  These are questions for which research has yet to provide definitive answers, but they are still interesting points to consider.  In a recent article by Graeme Neville, in Australian Tennis, this question is discussed in light of the number of tennis serves that are commonly hit by junior tennis players.  This is then compared to the number of pitches that are thrown by Australian pitchers in their youth baseball leagues.  Some interesting points are raised in the article, including:

• Even the most advanced 18& under Australian baseball players are only allowed to throw between 80-110 pitches in a game, and must then rest for three days before pitching again.  16 and under players are restricted to a maximum of 90 pitches and 14 year olds are limited to 80 pitches with the same mandatory rest periods in place.
• It is not unheard of for a junior tennis player to hit more than 200 serves in a given day.   Then if the player is successful and advances in the tournament, he or she has the 'opportunity' to hit that many serves again the following day.
• Baseball players, who really only need to rest their arms after throwing, often engage in substantial recovery efforts to help prepare the shoulder for the next game, a process that commonly involves a cool down, icing, and light exercise.
• Tennis engages the entire body, yet there are really no set guidelines for what a player should do to recover before the next practice or match.

Baseball is obviously different from tennis, but it is still interesting to consider the physical demands that are placed on today’s players and how best to protect against overuse injuries.  It is important to think about what is appropriate, and safe, for today's junior tennis players.  

For more information, you can read the entire article titled "Physical Burnout: A Coach's Perspective" in Australian Tennis, November 2003.

 
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