Missouri Valley / Kansas

Sports Safety and Performance Q & A

March 31, 2020

An ever-present topic in most parents' minds is the safety of their children. A parent’s biggest mission is to keep their children safe and to teach them how to eventually care for and make decisions for themselves.


As the parents of athletes, we want our kids to succeed in sports maybe even eventually be able to go onto play at the college and/or professional level someday. 


But how do we give our kids the best opportunities to play and succeed while still keeping them safe and helping to protect their bodies both short and long-term?


April is Youth Sports Safety Month and the USTA seeks to bring further awareness to this initiative because it is at the very forefront of the organization’s goals and values. 


To do this we enlisted the expertise of physical therapist, Dr. Josh Glaser from Advanced Physical Therapy-College Hill, located in Wichita, Kansas.

Skip Advertisement


Dr. Glaser is not only a physical therapist but also a long-time tennis player. He has played and coached the sport and now works to help others participate in sport and daily activities through specific injury prevention and recovery techniques.


We sat down with Dr. Josh Glaser to do a Q&A over some topics that are relevant to athletes and parents when looking at involving your kids or yourself in tennis.


Q: What is one of the most common mistakes that athletes make when starting a sport (like tennis) or a training regimen?


Dr. Glaser: People try to go from zero to 60 too quickly. They start at the workout level of someone who has been playing the sport or performing the exercise routine for a longer period of time immediately. Instead they need to build strength and skill over a longer period of time. It cannot be obtained within a few days or even weeks. It needs to be built up gradually, with supervision and instruction, otherwise the participant is at a higher risk of injury.


Q: Do you recommend an athlete focus on their best sport?


Dr. Glaser: No. Coaches used to teach you that the longer you spend playing a sport, the better you will be able to perform at that sport. Some still do, but this ideology is outdated and mounting evidence shows single sport specialization is not beneficial.


Many current professional athletes remained multi-sport athletes as long as they could while specializing in their preferred sport.

Patrick Mahomes, the 2018-19 NFL MVP quarterback whose Kansas City Chiefs won the 2020 Super Bowl, frequently talks about how he played multiple sports growing up. In fact he would still play basketball with his teammates if the Chiefs would let him. Mahomes was elite at those sports and is now one of the best football players in the league.


Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both were national class soccer players that could have played for their countries’ Olympic teams, but chose to play tennis professionally. 


Our muscles, ligaments and tendons all need a bit of recovery time. They need an off season. That doesn’t mean doing nothing, it means doing a different sport or training regimen that places different wears and tears on the body while allowing it to heal. 


Athletes often choose their primary sport very early on, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only sport that a child should play.


Q: How do you suggest that parents get their children ready for a sport?


Dr. Glaser: Develop simple skills first. Simple training exercises like short distance running/jogging and light weights/body weight for muscle development to begin with. Then, gradually increase the weight and the skill required by their training exercises.


Physical therapists are happy to do a movement analysis that would tell the athlete what their weaknesses and their injury risks are, what faulty movement patterns they’ve picked up and what muscles are firing incorrectly.


Systems, like the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, are being applied to athletes at this time to determine the causes of their pain and injury. The body is a complex system. Often a pain can be caused by a problem far away through a concept we call regional interdependence. Assessments like this should be done when the athlete is not in acute pain so that the assessment can locate the problem without it being masked by pain. 


Parents are welcome to call physical therapy clinics like Advanced Physical Therapy-College Hill to see if they are offering this testing and how it works with their insurance.


Q: What is the difference between personal/athletic trainers and physical therapists? When do you use one over the other?


Dr. Glaser: There is nothing wrong with using a trainer to build baseline fitness. Physical therapists are trained at the doctoral level to look at the entire body as a whole and to determine where the true problem originates. Sometimes that may be a weakness of the muscle, a failure of the nerve to fire, a faulty movement, a failure of core stability which produces poor control in the extremities or any number of other causes. We try not only fix pain temporarily, but try to prevent it from returning.


Physical therapists are very focused on injury prevention. Trainers can work with physical therapists to make sure that their plans are appropriate for the individual.


[Dr. Glaser has monitored exercises given by trainers and has sent exercises to them to tell them what areas of strength training he recommends to prevent and repair potential physiological issues.


PTs are also capable of working with athletic trainers located within middle/high schools. If a student comes in to see a physical therapist for an evaluation he/she can work intermittently with the athletic trainer modifying the course of the training as the problem begins to change.] 


Q: What is a common type of injury associated with tennis? How do tennis players prevent/deal with this type of injury?


Dr. Glaser: Tennis is a sport that lends itself to overuse injuries. A lot of success in the game lends itself to repetitive stress injuries, because training and performance is often accomplished by repeating a motion over and over again. Athletes would be better served to listen to their bodies and give them rest when something starts to hurt, rather than letting it become a major problem.  


During these periods of relative rest and recovery an athlete can continue to train by watching professional and high level tennis matches and stroke videos. Visualization techniques also work well to give the body a bit of a breather while continuing to sharpen the mind.


Athletes can also perform unloaded slow versions of the strokes to help your body feel them, to feel itself and to be able to better recognize where it is in space and train muscle memory. When the ball impacts at the end of the racquet, the racquet acts as a lever. It sends more force and more torque through the arm. Whereas, if you shadow stroke and practice without hitting a ball at the end you can still train to hit the stroke without absorbing the impact.


I'm not saying don’t practice off of live balls, because there is no substitute for it, but to find more of a balance in practice regimens to ensure that the athlete can play more often at his/her best and have more longevity in the sport of tennis and activity throughout his or her life.


Q: Is there anything else athletes should know to help them succeed?


Dr. Glaser: One of the best ways of preventing injury is to improve your body’s ability to stabilize itself and to control its motion. Stabilizing the scapula can protect the elbow and the wrist. Increasing hip strength can protect the knees and ankles. If this is done correctly, the athlete will decrease his/her likelihood of injury and thereby be able to perform at their highest level.


Thank you to physical therapists like Dr. Glaser who not only help their communities stay healthy and recover on a daily basis but also give their time and continue their education to make sure that they can offer their patients the best care and the tools with which to care for and strengthen themselves.


If you have more questions for a physical therapist, please call a local clinic in your area and set up an appointment. 

Skip Advertisement


Related Articles

  • There’s a lot of good work being done for the residents of Wichita through partnerships between the USTA Foundation, the Genesis Foundation for Fitness & Tennis (GFFT), and the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation of Kansas, including the recent National Junior Tennis League program. Read More
  • The Genesis Greys JTT team poses for a team picture.
    Third Place at JTT
    August 09, 2023
    From July 18-19, Junior Team Tennis (JTT) teams hit Edmond Center Court in Edmond, OK, for the 2023 USTA Missouri Valley JTT Section Championships. Read More
  • Warm weather, fun programs, and, of course, tennis–it’s what’s going to take place in Wichita to honor Juneteenth in 2023! Read More