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Ask the High Perfomance Lab

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

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.

If you would like to submit a question that may be answered by our Health & Fitness team or want to share an idea for a future column, please click here.

Scott works closely with the Coaching Education and Strength and Conditioning staff within High Performance, as well as the USTA Sport Science Committee, to collect and disseminate information related to sport science and tennis. Scott is also a Certifie© USTA
The answers to this week’s "Ask the Expert" column come from Scott Riewald, PhD. Dr. Riewald is the USTA Administrator of Sport Science.

Dr. Riewald and the Sport Science staff work with Coaching Education to provide information to the coaches of top American players through seminars, workshops and newsletters.


From Vince Bell of Deerfield Bch, FL: Can you please list the banned substances/supplements for me? I train several juniors and they want to take some nutritional supplements. Along with the WADA list, are there any other nutritional supplements that are banned (glutamine, creatine, etc.).

Please send some information so I can inform these young athletes and their families.

Dr. Riewald: Vince, thank you for your questions - they are good ones and ones that are important for all tennis players. I will refer you to the ITF’s Anti-Doping website for much of the information you will need.

Starting on January 1, 2007 the ITF will oversee the anti-doping efforts for the ATP, WTA and junior events. According to the Tennis Anti-Doping Program rules, any player who enters or participates in a Competition, Event or activity organized, sanctioned or recognized by the ITF or who has an ATP Tour or WTA Tour ranking shall be bound by and shall comply with all of the provisions of this program. The banned list that serves as the basis for the Tennis Anti-Doping Program has been created by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Again, I refer you to the ITF’s Ant-Doping website to access all information related to the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, including a link to the banned list, FAQs, and information on Therapeutic Use Exemptions for players who must take banned substances to treat documented medical conditions.

As for using specific supplements like creatine, the policy of the USTA is that athletes are responsible for everything they put into their body. We do not recommend players take any supplements. On the surface, many supplements are legal, but there are some important words of caution you should note. In 2001, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) conducted an analysis of 634 supplements worldwide. These supplements were purchased in nutritional supplement stores much like the ones you see in most shopping malls today.

From these supplements, nearly 15% were found to contain substances that were not listed on the product label yet would have resulted in a positive drug test had a player consumed it. In the United States, the percentage of seemingly “legal” supplements that were tainted with banned substances reached almost 19%. So this is something to think about and consider when deciding whether to add a supplement to your diet.

One recommendation is to ask a representative of the company you are purchasing a supplement from to issue a statement of purity stating the product you are taking is free of banned substances as described by the WADA Anti-Doping code. If they are un-willing to do that ask yourself why. Remember, the athlete is responsible for everything that goes into his or her body, whether it is labeled correctly on the supplement’s packaging or not.

Click here to see the results of the 2001 IOC study.

From Patrick Reynolds of Alexandria, VA: I am 13 years old and I want to work on getting stronger arm muscles but I have heard that at my age I shouldn’t work out that much. What exercises can/should I do?

Dr. Riewald: Patrick, there is a lot of information out there about strength training for young tennis players – some good and some bad. The greatest fear when introducing a young player to strength training is injury, particularly injury to the growth plates in the bones. While there will always be some risk of injury with any activity (even playing tennis), both the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued statements saying that strength training is safe for young athletes provided that:

  1. A competent coach who is skilled in program design supervises every training session, and...
  2. Proper technique is taught and required in every repetition of every exercise.

The goal of a strength and conditioning program for someone your age should be to build a base level of strength and muscular endurance. You should not be focusing on developing power, nor should you be performing any overhead lifts (where you list weight above your head). To build muscular endurance perform 2-3 sets of an exercise, performing 15-20 repetitions in each set.

As mentioned before, don’t try to develop a strength and conditioning program on your own – try to hook up with a qualified strength and conditioning coach (someone with the initials CSCS after his or her name) to teach you proper technique and training principles.

As for exercises, the USTA Player Development Division has listed a number of exercises on their website that can help tennis players prevent injury and enhance performance. Access these exercises from the Strength and Conditioning resource homepage.










If you would like to submit a question that may be answered by our Health & Fitness team or want to share an idea for a future column, please click here.

Click here for USTA.com's Health & Fitness Archive.

Also, click here to visit the USTA Player Development website!



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