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Increase the amount your child plays gradually, especially when they are trying out a new court surface, new equipment (shoes, racquet) or new techniques. They should also allow time to rest between matches and practices and take at least one day off per week.
Forgetting to warm up and poor flexibility can lead to knee and ankle injuries, so be sure your child warms up and then stretches before matches.
Practices should include exercises that work on skills needed during a tennis match, such as agility drills or shuttle runs. Remember to strengthen the legs and trunk to avoid overusing the arms — they provide the most power in a tennis stroke or serve.
Avoid playing on courts that are cracked or wet. These surfaces can increase the risk of ankle sprains. Your child should also avoid playing with wet balls.
If possible, don’t play in weather that is too hot, too cold or too windy, as hot weather can lead to heat stroke and cold weather can lead to stiff muscles that may be more likely to be strained. Additionally, hitting in windy weather can increase the risk of tendonitis (irritation of your tendons).
If your child must play in hot, sunny weather, they should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen protecting against UVA and UVB rays, as well as a hat and light colored clothing. They should also wipe the sweat off of their racquet frequently so it doesn’t twist.
Your child should stay well hydrated in hot environments, and they should drink at each changeover during a competition. Sports drinks, which have electrolytes and carbohydrates, are recommended when exercising for an hour or more. Dehydration will decrease your child’s performance and can also be dangerous to their health.
Consult a tennis professional to help you choose the racquet and shoes that are right for your child. A racquet that is too light or too heavy, or one that has the wrong string tension, can contribute to shoulder and elbow problems. Make sure the grip is not too large or too small; it should not rotate in your child’s hand when they hit the ball.
Find shoes that are made especially for tennis, which will help prevent your child from rolling their ankles. Avoid shoes with small toe boxes and make sure your child’s toenails are cut short and straight across to avoid jamming their toes.
Tips on Preventing Specific Injuries
Avoid excessive overhead serving and smashes.
Ask a professional how to strengthen your child’s scapular stabilizer and rotator cuff muscles and how to maintain the range of motion in your child’s shoulder in a safe way.
Use a tennis racquet that is right for your child.
Ask a tennis professional to review your child’s technique. They should avoid leading with the elbow during the backhand, extending the wrist during the backhand or snapping the wrist forward during the forehand.
Strengthen the muscles of the upper back, shoulder, arm, and forearm to reduce stress on your child’s elbow.
Limit how often your child lets the racquet head drop down while gripping the racquet. Repeatedly allowing this to happen can irritate the thumb tendons.
Excessive top spin places more stress on the wrist and can make wrist pain worse.
Instruct your child not to arch their back too much while serving—over time this movement may cause a stress fracture in their back.
Ask a professional how to strengthen and stretch your child’s back and abdominal muscles safely.
Ask a professional how to strengthen your child’s hip and knee muscles and how to stretch the hamstrings and the quadriceps safely.
If your child has a tendency to roll or sprain their ankle, then see a sports medicine doctor. They may benefit from physical therapy or a brace to prevent repeated sprains that can damage their ankle.
Don’t let your child play through pain — it can make the injury worse and prolong recovery. If pain is persistent, or if your child develops severe pain, see a sports medicine doctor.