Returning to tennis and concerned about my shoulder
June 8, 2010 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Tennis Filter: I've recently returned to playing tennis after a multi-decade break. I played high-school and college tennis in my day but stopped for any number of reasons. I have a good rally partner and I've surprisingly been able to get back to a reasonable level after only five weeks. The only niggling issue is some pain in my service shoulder that feels like a rotor cuff problem. It goes away after 10-15 minutes of softer serves. I've found that throwing a ball overhand generates the same twinge but also loosens things up so that the serving motion is more comfortable.

What exercises and/or stretching should I be doing to prevent injury and improve flexibility? Bonus question for others that have returned to the game after a long layoff. Just going out for a hit without the desire to improve has never really interested me. Have you found a coach to be beneficial to your enjoyment of the game in your mid-life?
posted by michswiss to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not a tennis player, but as someone with chronic rotator cuff problems, I would suggest a proactive approach. Don't wait until after you've injured it.

There are specific stretches and exercises that will help strengthen the cuff and improve flexibility. Demonstration videos are pretty easy to find on Youtube. One easy stretch involves standing with your side facing a wall, placing your hand as high up against the wall as you can, and slowly leaning into it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:19 AM on June 8, 2010

Response by poster: I ripped out my rotator cuff in the opposite shoulder around the time I stopped playing tennis and it's a bear. I appreciate the advice to stay ahead of the issue. Youtube is inconvenient for me as I'm in China. I can manage access but it's painfully slow. So standard websites describing approaches would be better. Anecdotal or personal approaches are also appreciated.
posted by michswiss at 8:41 AM on June 8, 2010

My dad had a similar issue throwing a softball. He reports that doing some light shoulder strengthening exercises with a barbell has made the problem disappear.
posted by callmejay at 8:44 AM on June 8, 2010

Two rotator cuff exercises to do with freeweights:

1) Bend your arms at 90 degree angles and hold them out such that your upper arms point to either side, parallel to the ground, and your forearms point forward. Holding a weight in each hand, rotate your arms until your forearms point towards the sky. Bring them back down and repeat.

2) Lay on your side with your arm bent at a 90 degree angle, your upper arm parallel with your body and your forearm draped across your stomach. Holding a weight in your hand, rotate your arm until your forearm is parallel with the ground. Bring it down gently and repeat. Flip onto your other side for the opposite arm.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:00 AM on June 8, 2010

I have the exact same issue and have had a lot of success with these plus slowing my serves down just a pinch most of the time.
posted by Cosine at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2010

Have you considered hiring a coach to observe your serve and correct your form? I mean for a single lesson only; this isn't meant to answer your last question. Because you've been away from the game for many years, you may be forgetting about some bad habits you used to have, and because you're older now, those habits may be having more impact.
posted by yawper at 7:26 PM on June 8, 2010

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