ʺServingʺ tennis players
All tennis players will tell you that a good serve is an extremely important asset in a match. And yet, this movement, which is practiced over and over again, is by no means harmless and can cause pain and even injury to the upper and lower limbs, as well as the trunk. To analyse this movement, from the point of view of performance and the prevention of tears, researchers from the Laboratory of Human Motion Analysis (LAMH) at the University of Liège studied high level players. A summary of their conclusions was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (1).
Identifying the pain
ʺOur study focused on the case of a 22-year-old high level international tennis player who felt a sharp pain while serving. He told us he experienced this pain when the trunk was in extension and he was starting the flexion. We concluded that as he was executing this stroke, the abdominal muscles were going from eccentric contraction to concentric contraction. Clinical examinations, such as magnetic resonance imaging, revealed a tear in the rectus abdominus muscle. The location of this tear is indeed well known as a well-defined site for injuries during the serveʺ, François Tubez continues. Once this diagnosis was made, the player underwent physiotherapy as well as an isometric evaluation of the trunk muscle, i.e. the flexors, extensors, lateral flexors and rotators. This evaluation showed a weakness of the right lateral flexors in comparison with the left, as well as too much stress on the flexors compared with the extensors.
The injured player was compared to five other players of the same level with no injuries. ʺOf course, you could say that a study involving six people is a bit thin on the ground, but our objective was to analyse a specific case. Furthermore, we had to take into account our player’s level of play. He was in the top 50 ATP ranking, so it wasn’t easy to find Belgian players with a comparable level who were willing to undergo our tests for the comparisonʺ, says Cédric Schwartz, co-author of this article.
(1) F. Tubez et al., Biomechanical Analysis of Abdominal Injury in Tennis Serves. A Case Report, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2268/180795