Over a lifetime of playing tennis (with a lot of baseball and football thrown in), I’ve incurred quite an array of injuries along the way. From top to bottom—shoulder (partially torn rotator cuff), back (lower back pain), elbow (tennis and golfer’s elbow), wrist (numerous sprains), hip (bursitis), knee (torn plica cartilage), ankle (numerous rolls) and foot (plantar fasciitis, hammer toe, neuromas) injuries in varying degrees of severity. Not to mention plenty of pulled muscles. Granted I play more tennis than most but injuries in tennis, particularly competitive tennis are a given.

For years I was oblivious to stretching but for some time now I make sure to do a dynamic stretching routine before I hit a ball and some static stretching after. I was shown this routine by an amazing chiropractor at Lake Tahoe while directing the Nike Tahoe Tennis Camp. I was having lower back pain at the time and was referred by a fellow teaching pro from the area to Tim Schroeder (balancedoctor.com). Tim is remarkable and I’m forever grateful for his amazing work and advice.

For the complete lowdown on stretching you should check out Brad Walker’s injuryfix.com. A few years ago while teaching in Italy I began to have a lot of pain in the upper part of my hitting arm, particularly on backhands. I thought it was a muscle pull but upon arriving home an MRI showed a partially torn rotator cuff. All the years I had been a pitcher, a quarterback and a server had caught up to me. Surgery was simply not an option and fortunately I found Brad’s website with a portion totally devoted to rotator cuff health. By modifying one of the exercises he recommended within two weeks I was out of pain and highly motivated to keep my shoulder strong.

The modification was with an absolute gem of a device called the Theraband Flexbar (thera-band.com). The Flexbars come in four different sizes of weight and flexibility with corresponding colors. I had purchased the green one on the advice of a client who said it had helped him overcome tennis elbow. At the time I was experiencing a bit of pain on the inside of the elbow and in no time after using the Flexbar I was pain free. One day I tried it as an alternative to the “tennis ball in a sock” exercises Brad suggested for the shoulder and the rest is history. I have suggested these exercises with the Flexbar to a number of my clients and friends and they’ve all been happy with the results.

For the lower body there’s nothing more important than stretching your calves. After years of terrible plantar fasciitis pain I was referred to Dr. Stephen Wagstaff (fas-med.com). If you live in the Bay Area and have problems with your feet I would highly suggest you see him. Dr. Wagstaff was quick to show me how tight my calves were and why it was having such a negative effect on the plantar fascia. The combination of calf stretching 3-5 times a day for 30 seconds at a time and a set of his custom orthotics have kept me pain free for years now.

Tennis can be very hard on the body…lots of swing repetitions, explosive starts, quick stops, direction changes etc. Work on your strength, flexibility and cardio and you’ll get to spend more pain free time on the court!