Tennis Effects on the Body
January 11, 2019 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Is tennis harmful to the body?

I'm a tennis player. If you know the rating system I'm a 4.0 player. I was a high school player. I'm in my late 30's now. I'm in decent shape. Though I have a bad lower back. I'm still playing tennis and I love it. Problem is I find that I really pay for it physically for a couple days after I play. Of course it depends how many sets I play. After seeing Andy Murray looking like he's ready to call it quits it got me thinking...is tennis doing my body good or bad? I read so many articles that say how great tennis is for you. And I see people playing it in their golden years. But anybody out there who plays at somewhat of a competitive level knows tennis can be pretty harsh on the body especially when playing on hard courts. My question is, do you think tennis is a good sport for the aging adult? I don't wanna do damage to my body in the long term. Any thoughts or advice here is greatly appreciated!
posted by ljs30 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Depends on what you mean by "harmful." There's no one definition of good/bad activity, food, etc.

Any type of cardiovascular exercise is good for your body. And building muscle is good as well. And having a physical activity that you enjoy is great because you're likely to do it more often. Plus a competitive sport engages your brain as well as your body.

That said, many sports can be physically damaging to your body. Especially if you're skilled and you play regularly. I haven't played tennis since I was a kid, but I imagine it's tough on the knees and back.

Why don't you go see a good sports-minded physical therapist for your back? They can help you evaluate the activity for your body, maybe help with strategies to build up certain muscles and figure out how to prevent/treat muscle pain after playing.
posted by radioamy at 3:53 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


That all said, my grandfather played tennis pretty late into life. He had a bad knee, and I'm not sure if tennis exacerbated it or not, but he really enjoyed playing and I think the exercise was really beneficial for him. He was an identical twin, and he maintained his mental health a lot better than his brother. He actually died a few years earlier than his brother, but he had a much much better quality of life.
posted by radioamy at 3:55 PM on January 11


Anecdotally, the fittest over-70s I know are regular tennis players. And as a late-40s guy who's active in an admittedly less physically demanding sport, I definitely feel that it has a lot of health benefits when gauged against being sedentary.

Maybe you could look at getting some advice on better footwear for hard courts. I know that making changes to my own shoe choice has radically reduced activity-induced pain. And seconding the recommendation of chatting with a sports therapist more generally.

It sounds to me like you ought to stick with tennis. You probably have another 30 years in you yet.
posted by pipeski at 4:03 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


So, for Reasons, I hang out with a lot of seniors. Pickleball is big with them. They love it and it’s pretty physical like tennis.
posted by vivzan at 4:07 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


You're only in your thirties, which seems young to me to be paying for days. Do you have a coach? If not, can you take some private lessons? See a physical therapist? They can make sure you're not doing anything to injure yourself, and give you exercises to strengthen what needs to be strengthened.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:43 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]


The older folks I know playing tennis (70+) have taken to playing doubles and playing on grass. One continues to play after his knee replacement. If you play because you enjoy it then keep playing, you can find a way to make it work for you.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:07 PM on January 11


As someone who takes care of people with and researches a chronic neurological disease where the only disease-preventing and disease - modifying therapy is aerobic exercise, I am firmly in the pro-tennis camp. (Pro as in promoting, not pro as in professional.)

On phone so can't link, but search 'midlife exercise and Parkinson's disease.' Alzheimer's too. And stroke. And possibly ALS. Shall I continue?

By all means, work with a sports therapist or coach to make sure your form is right/avoid repetitive injury, but keep playing!
posted by basalganglia at 5:20 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


My grandmother played until into her 70s; after her 40s or so she had to start playing slower, more recreational/social games, not hard-and-fast competitive games. For her, the fast changes of direction were wreaking havoc on her knees.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Some strengthening and flexibility exercises might help your back (and knees and ankles). And taking glucosamine / chondritin may help if the pain is cartilage related. I know several senior citizen tennis players and it has definitely had major benefits for their fitness and balance as they age. The body starts to seize up in the 30s for most people but it's probably better to modify and keep moving rather than stop.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:02 PM on January 11


Just watch the sunburn.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:16 PM on January 11


At 47 I have been mainly playing on Har-Tru for the past several years and feel notably more beaten up after playing on a hard court. Worth a try.
posted by MattD at 6:33 PM on January 11


By all means, work with a sports therapist or coach to make sure your form is right/avoid repetitive injury, but keep playing!

Seconding basalganglia on this. You might find that with a little auxiliary gym time (perhaps some weightlifting to strengthen your back, for example), that you’ll have easier recovery from your tennis playing. And to echo RobotVoodooPower, use sunscreen!
posted by ocherdraco at 3:33 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


When you talk about paying for it later, are you feeling it in your lower back specifically? Definitely get looked for that, with reference to the activities you do, and see if there is advice they can give you.

My family all play lifetime, and this has included people with some fairly serious orthopedic challenges. As people get older they do turn to doubles and they also stop running down shots that are hopeless or very difficult, stuff like that. At the level you're at, you already probably know to keep your footwork going low-key rather than coming to a stop.
posted by BibiRose at 6:05 AM on January 12


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