Tips to Help You Stay Safe on the Court
As coaches always say, “the best ability is availability.” This holds true with tennis - you never want to be out of the action because of an injury that could have been prevented.
April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, and USTA Missouri Valley wanted to remind you of tips to stay safe on the court from a Q&A with Children Mercy Sports Medicine Center Physical Therapist Ron Wollenhaupt last year.
Wollenhaupt is also a trainer at Leavenworth High School in Kansas, and has been covering USTA events since 2015. In the summer of 2019, when Children’s Mercy and the USTA Missouri Valley partnered to cover USTA events, he stepped into a larger role and is a prominent face at tournaments around the area.
Marissa Moment Brown, Director of Community Tennis for USTA Missouri Valley, said partnerships like the one with Children’s Mercy are invaluable to keep juniors healthy on and off the court.
“We have been fortunate to work initially with Ron and then join in a partnership with the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center for our local junior tournaments,” she said. “Ron has worked our top junior tournament for several years. The event was elevated with Ron's expertise on-site to assist players with injury and heat-related issues. Working with the Sports Medicine Center staff helps to keep our junior players healthy so they can continue to enjoy playing the sport of tennis.”
Some of the most common ailments he sees at tennis matches are muscle cramps and dehydration, which can easily be prevented through proper hydration and conditioning. Wollenhaupt also says that tendinitis, back strains and wrist issues are common problems among young players.
“Just do your strength and conditioning,” he said. “After practicing on the court, go to the gym and get in some tennis-specific exercises. You can get creative with doing core and agility exercises, and make it fun to go to the gym while working just as hard.”
Another great way to stay strong and limber is yoga. Yoga can reduce inflammation, improve heart health, reduce pain and increase strength, among many other benefits.
“I preach yoga to my players at all times,” Wollenhaupt said. “I’ve had so many elite athletes tell me that when they started doing yoga, they noticed a huge difference.”
It is also important to be cognizant of the weather when playing. Especially in the Midwest, you can find yourself battling extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold during the late fall and early spring. But there are ways to be ready for the extremes in either situation.
“For the heat, you have to get climatized. Get into the heat and get used to it. Have a rolling cooler full of water and electrolytes. It takes more than water, you have to have electrolytes too. You almost have to experiment to find out what does work for you. If you’re a heavy sweater, you have to hydrate more often,” he said. “The cold can be just as bad. You have to make sure you have layers. Start warm, and you can take layers off. Wear a hat if it's too cold because that’s a good way to keep heat in and keep a pair of gloves to wear in-between matches.”
Playing tennis is a lot of fun, but dealing with injuries is not. Keep these tips in mind, and you will be off to a good start in staying healthy and ready to go.