How to choose a tennis racket for players with tennis elbow?
Roughly 1 in 200 players suffers from tennis elbow. Golfer’s elbow, a close cousin, is also common, affecting the inner area of your elbow versus the outer area, which is associated with tennis elbow. Even though fixing this issue can be chal-lenging, there are some general guidelines and recommendations that players can consider when selecting a racket.
Technique, Rest & Recovery
Before I jump into some of my recommendations, I’d like to talk about how tech-nique and rest can help in recovering from tennis elbow.
First and foremost, I’d highly recommend you take an honest look at your technique before spending a lot of time analysing your gear. Most of the time, you can allevi-ate tennis elbow by tweaking or developing your technique, which may be putting unnecessary pressure or force on your arm. Secondly, give yourself time to rest. In many cases, players are forced off the court when the pain gets to be too much. Take some time in order rest and recover and spend some time with your coach to see if you can make any adjustments that will help with the pain. If you feel good about where you are at with your technique and you’ve given yourself some time to rest, then, by all means, take a serious look at your equipment.
One of the first places to start with is racket weight or static weight. That is the weight of your unstrung racket. Generally, a heavier tennis racket will absorb great-er shocks, so if you’re suffering from tennis elbow, it can be beneficial to use a heav-ier racket. Of course, this is only true to a certain extent.
A good rule of thumb is to find the heaviest racket weight that you can comfortably swing, but again, you want to be careful not to overdo it. A racket that’s too heavy can also cause undue stress on your arm and lead to poor technique and contact with the ball. Many players suffering from tennis elbow will automatically want to switch to a feather-light racket, thinking that the weight is the culprit. In many cases, doing so can worsen the problem while at the same time getting you used to a frame that may not be the most suitable for your game.
Just like its weight, the racket’s balance is also very important. On one hand, more weight in the racket’s head will provide stability when hitting the ball, but less weight in the handle can leave you susceptible to the shocks and vibrations that travel through the racket on contact. This is why I’d recommend that you start with a racket that is a few points head light (HL), while ensuring that the overall weight be as heavy as possible while still allowing you to comfortably swing and make it through a three-set match.
Swing weight is the weight of a racket as measured when swinging it through the air. You’re going to want to look for a racket that has a high enough swing weight without going so high that it ends up leading you to poor technique and stress on your arm. Ultimately, swing weight is a function of racket weight and balance.
When it comes to racket stiffness, the general rule of thumb you can work with is that stiffer rackets will tend to be harsher on your arm, which is due to both the vi-bration and shock. We all know what vibration is, but not everyone associates it with playing tennis. When you make contact with a ball, the energy from striking the ball travels down the frame to your hand, and ultimately to your arm – the more rigid or stiff the frame, the more prominent the vibration.
Head Size and Racket Length
As the size of a racket’s head increases, so does the ability for the strings to flex, ab-sorb impact, and deflect energy. It can be beneficial to go with a slightly larger head size if you have the opportunity to do so. Length is another factor worth considering. As the length of a racket increases, so will the pressure, or torque, on your arm when swinging. I’d recommend that you look for a shorter racket. Most rackets fall be-tween 27 and 29 inches.
String Material & Construction
As with tennis rackets, the different types of tennis strings vary significantly in mate-rial, construction, and thickness, which ultimately has an impact on feel.
When browsing for tennis strings, players suffering from tennis elbow should stay away from stiffer materials like polyester and instead opt for softer nylon strings.
Beyond material, string construction is another factor that can contribute to tennis elbow. A great option is multifilament strings, which manufacturers construct by weaving thousands of microfibers together in order to create a string with a soft, forgiving feel.
String Tension & Pattern
String tension can also have a significant impact on the overall feel of a racket. Play-ers suffering from tennis elbow may opt for a lower tension in order to soften the feel and reduce the overall stiffness of a racket. At a lower tension, strings will ab-sorb more energy, resulting in less shock and vibration to your arm. However, the lower the string tension, the less control you have when hitting the ball.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when making adjustments to your racket to accommodate for tennis elbow. Because of this, individual players need to weigh the pros and cons of making adjustments to their racket and strings to re-duce the symptoms of tennis elbow. As you evaluate different options, spend some time trying out a variety of different rackets. Unfortunately, there is no “best” racket for tennis elbow. However, using these guidelines, players can choose a racket that fits their game while providing some relief from tennis elbow.
Remember that your technique may also be contributing to your symptoms. Don’t make the mistake of taking the shortcut of switching up your gear in order to pro-vide some symptomatic relief if there are other long-term fixes that you can im-plement to prevent it from occurring in the first place.