Coaching Tip - May 2017

    Muscle Cramp - The enemy of all Tennis players

    The cramping of muscles can be a problem for Tennis players at all levels but especially for those playing in a competitive environment.
    Cramp is often experienced in the hard- working muscles in the legs but can be felt in the Racquet arm(s) and hand(s).

    Muscle Cramp – What is it?
    Cramp occurs when muscles are placed under a heavy workload – overuse - during a long match or when stretched to or beyond their limit.
    The symptoms are
    The muscle goes into an uncontrollable spasm and refuses to relax
    The muscle movement is thus hampered with the severe spasm totally restricting muscle movement
    The pain can range from mild (annoying) to severe (agony)
    The spasm (cramp) can last from seconds to minutes
    The cramp can in many cases recur during a match in the same place or elsewhere in the body

    The cause – Why it happens?
    There are several contributing factors which can make a Tennis player susceptible to Muscle Cramps (spasms).
    Physical conditioning – being fit for Tennis
    Muscle Cramp is more likely to occur in Tennis players (athletes) who lack the necessary physical conditioning.
    The less tennis fit a player is the more likely that muscle cramp(s) will happen
    The muscles tire from continuous use during a long match or training session so that these tired muscles are more likely to suffer from Muscle Cramping (spasms) towards the end of these long matches.
    The body loses essential minerals as part of the sweating process but this loss becomes excessive during long matches/ training sessions and/or playing Tennis in a warm to hot environment.
    The hard- working muscles are therefore deprived of the minerals essential to keep up with requirements.
    The muscles then go into spasm so that the muscle cramp prevents the movements required to continue to compete at the highest level.

    Muscle Cramp – Prevention
    On Court
    Tennis players of all standards and ages should warm up for the match/training session at hand and cool down after each match/training to help their body prepare for and recover from their Tennis sessions and prevent Muscle cramps at the same time.
    Warm Up
    Tennis players should establish their own warm up process which includes a light run and other activities which include Dynamic stretching to imitate the movement required and the strokes to be played on court during the Tennis match/ training session.
    Cool Down
    The cool down is often forgotten by Tennis players but is vital for a full and complete recovery in readiness
    for that next match/training session.
    This involves a walk around the courts or nearby surrounds to cool down from the full-on match activities and then a systematic Static stretching regime from head to toe to help stretch out the muscles.
    A recovery type Sports drink can be consumed at this stage to help replace the electrolytes lost during the
    Intense match/training session and this will help to prevent cramping after the event.

    Off Court
    Tennis players should
    Ensure that their fluid intake is adequate
    This should happen always but it is of particular importance in the lead up to Tennis matches and training sessions.
    Maintain good fitness
    This fitness training should be appropriate for tennis but may involve some cross training as a break from the specific tennis training

    Muscle Cramp – treatment of
    When a Muscle Cramp (spasm) happens on court during a match call for the Sports trainer if there is one available.
    This option is not usually available for the Club player so you will probably have to go solo and deal with the cramp yourself.
    At the higher level, Injury time outs are not usually given for Muscle Cramp but maybe after an initial assessment
    Play should continue.

    Off Court
    Initial Treatment
    Gently stretch and massage the affected muscles to try to relieve the spasm and help to return the muscle to its natural position and state
    Try to contract the muscles that oppose the action of the muscles in spasm
    i.e. Contract the Hamstrings if the Quads are cramping to see if that brings any relief.
    Send someone for some Ice as soon as possible
    Do not apply the ice directly to the skin but wrap it in a cloth or towel before placing the ice on the area of concern.
    This may help bring some relief.
    Drink a Sport drink to increase fluids and electrolytes
    The increase in fluids and electrolyte replacement will help if the Muscle cramp is caused by dehydration.

    Cramp – Assessment
    The player will need to make an assessment as follows
    When the muscles have relaxed and the pain is gone
    He / She can return to the court
    The player should monitor during the match
    The cramp and pain can return at any stages during the match
    Leave the court – forfeit if necessary - if the cramps and pain return as it is not wise to play in this condition.

    Players who experience regular Muscle cramps and spasms should consult a
    Sports physician
    To see if there any other factors affecting the player’s fitness for tennis

    Tennis the game of a lifetime

    Check out my previous coaching tips on my website.
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    Coach Steve