PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.
The answers in this week’s column are presented by Michele McCoy, athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach for USA Tennis High Performance. Michele has a background in working with elite level athletes. She earned her Master’s degree in Sport Psychology from San Diego State University in 1995 and her Exercise Science/Athletic Training degree in 1993 from Appalachian State University. Michele also competed as a junior tennis player in Florida and played on the Appalachian State University tennis team for two years.
Q: Do you have any data that suggests how long after an ACL reconstruction a female in her 40's can return to tennis fully? Are there tennis specific rehab exercises?
-- Sheri Musslewhite in Ponte Vedra, FL
McCoy: Age/sex of the athlete doesn’t seem to matter with reconstructed ACL’s when it comes to return to sport. What is important is how strong you were before the surgery, how well the surgery was performed, and what rehabilitation exercises have you successfully completed already, before you try to get back on the court. There is no set time frame, but 4-6 months after surgery if everything went well is a reasonable amount of time to be back playing normally. Of course there will be exceptions on either end and it could take longer or less time depending on the circumstances. Specific tennis exercises should focus on building leg strength, balance, agility and improving reaction time.
Q: My son has had a recurring back injury. The area of compliant is at the L5 level. He has recently been seen by a MD and chiropractor. The MD says “no practice for 6 months, no exercising, and wear a brace. It’s could be a pre-fracture.” The chiropractor says, “Nonsense! He should exercise or forget about his tennis.” Adjustments to the back would not make the condition worse or for that matter, if there was a serious injury as a fracture he couldn't take the adjustment because there would be pain. What would be your advice?
-- Katie in Brenham, TX
McCoy: I think you need to listen to who has the most sports medicine experience. Your son should be cared for by an orthopedist (MD) who has a specialty in sports medicine and is familiar with the demands of tennis. I recently had this situation occur with a junior athlete and the physician’s orders were followed. The orders were the similar to ones given your son. He should still be trying to exercise as much as he can while remaining pain free, focusing on improving his flexibility in other areas as well as maintaining his cardio-vascular fitness.
Q: I am a two-hand back hander and I am right handed. My left thumb has been hurting for a while now. Whenever I hit a backhand, it feels like the knuckle gets shocked on the left thumb. Do you recommend that I go see a chiropractor or what kind of doctor? Also, my knees have been hurting a lot when I play a lot. Should I ice my knees after playing tennis? Thank you.
-- Denisa in Los Angeles, CA
McCoy: I am sorry but the information you provide is too vague for me to give you any definitive answers. But you should definitely see a medical doctor called an orthopedist, who specializes in sports medicine. For your hand, you may even consult a hand doctor. Yes, icing your knees for 15 minutes after you play is a good idea until you find out exactly what causing the pain in your knees.
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