Choosing a Tennis Racquet that Fits Can Help Prevent Tennis Injuries

 By: Trina Rowe
With the UCLA Farmer's Classic in full effect this week, we got a healthy dose of tennis fever here at the Bauerfeind Performance Center. I thought it would be a great time to discuss how to choose a tennis racquet. My clients often ask me about how to choose a tennis racquet best suited for their needs, especially if they have been injured during tennis. Retailers carry a variety of different brands, all claiming that their technology is superior to others. In a saturated market, how does one go about choosing a tennis racquet that best suits your needs?

Tennis players place a high emphasis on, "feel" of their racquet during play. While it is important to become comfortable with the way you feel the racquet in your hand, there is more to choosing a tennis racquet than just taking a few practice swings with every racket in the store. There are several important variables to consider when choosing a tennis raquet. The right combination of size and balance of the racquet, string type and tension can ensure sustained play without causing tennis injuries.

Start by realistically evaluating your skill level before choosing a tennis racquet. While we all like to imagine that with a little practice and maybe the right racquet, we can also play like Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams. If we choose their tennis racquet, we will be one step closer to their level of play, right? Wrong. The number one mistake my clients make when choosing a tennis racquet is to base their choice on a tennis player they love. Consider your own strengths and weaknesses and base your choice on how you play now, not what you hope you play like in the future.

The first step in choosing a tennis racquet is to choose the size of your tennis racquet head. Elite players are capable of hitting the ball in the middle of the strings most of the time, so they do not, require a large head size. Less experienced players, or players prone to tennis elbow, will benefit from a racquet with a larger head size. This type of racquet has a larger sweet spot and provides the benefit of reducing the shock transmitted to your body.

Tennis racquet head size is also linked to weight distribution or balance of the racquet. Exceptions exist, but generally speaking, a racquet with a larger head size will be a head-heavy racquet while the smaller racquet will be head-light. Head-heavy racquets are better for the less experienced players because their weight helps generate more power on impact. Head-light racquets are more desirable for experienced players who have good strength and biomechanics so that they can utilize their own power and retain more control over the ball.

Three main types of strings to consider are, in order to increase stiffness, natural gut, nylon and polyester. Stiff strings transmit more vibration to hands and arms, so tennis players prone to upper extremity injuries are better off using natural gut or multifilament strings that help dampen vibrations in the strings. Many players like polyester strings because they are stiffer and players feel they can hit the ball harder with them. However, I have had many patients who simply change their strings to natural gut from polyester and this alone allowed them to break their cycle of recurring bouts of tennis elbow.

Finally, consider the string tension when choosing a tennis racquet. You should check the appropriate tension range corresponding to your particular racquet. However, you can still customize a tennis racket to your unique needs. Lower tension gives the player a bit more power but less control, while higher tension gives a slightly better control but less power. Here again, I make recommendations based on skill level. Less experienced players do not have the skills to control their racquets well and generally will benefit from slightly increased power. The reverse is true for the more experienced players.

Overall, the point I want to make here is that the racquet brand you select is less important than the type of racquet you choose and how you choose to string it. Modern frames are made of graphite and each manufacturer will have slightly different angles that they use to differentiate themselves from competition, but the differences can be debated and really subject to individual preferences. What each manufacturer will have in common is that they have different head size racquets, racquet balance, and stringing options to choose from that will allow you to adjust the points outlined above.

Here at the Bauerfeind Performance Center we carry Wilson tennis racquets and strings. Not only can we help you with choosing a tennis racquet, that's the exact fit, but we can even string it for you on-site and get you the correct grips and shoes to minimize your risk of tennis injuries and raise your potential.
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