If you are experiencing wrist pain after playing tennis especially if your technique is sound, a new racket may be just what you need to get your game back in motion. You can also make adjustments to your existing racket if a new weapon is not in your budget.
Wrist pain is the second most common tennis injury next to tennis elbow. The extreme positions and torque required to hit an effective topspin shot and the focus on the power game have increased injury in the recent years.
Here are some reasons to check before thinking about buying a new tennis racket for wrist pain.
- Bad technique – using your wrist in your shots ( common shots that involve use of wrist > serve and forehand )
- Weak forearm muscles / muscles not used to racket weight
- Sudden increase in tennis hours a week, not getting used to the hours of tennis activity
Six main components to a tennis racket
There are six main components to a tennis racket that we will look at here: weight, grip size, head size, balance, stiffness, and strings.
In general, if your tennis racket is the cause of your wrist pain, you need one that is more forgiving and takes away some of the impact of hitting the ball, so as to reduce the impact toward your body.
Heavier tennis rackets are more stable and therefore absorb more shock. This stability also lends itself to a more controlled swing. This reduces the amount of feedback to your arm as when the tennis ball contacts the tennis racket, the tennis racket’s mass will cause the racket to remain more stable and not vibrate much thus reducing some impact to your arm.
However, with a heavier tennis racket, one must be very experienced and a lot of tennis experience under their belt ( full time >21 player ) As a player who has played for 14 years full time and then professionally, i can tell you that it is hard to handle a 360g+ racket, i am currently using a 350g customized racket and 2 years ago a 330g one.
After switching to the 350g i could not lift my arm without pain for 2 days in a row before getting used to it. To use a heavy tennis racket you must have great technique, which means you need to hit with your legs+body instead of your arm, if you use your arm to hit with a heavy racket, you will get plenty of injuries.
A lighter tennis racket feels great on the swing, even with fairly strong muscles and tendons around the wrist, they can cause too much vibration down the arm.
One example is while coaching i thought using a lighter tennis racket would make me less tired as i have to feed thousands of balls a day, however, due to the vibration of the racket, my wrist and forearm would hurt more than using a heavier tennis racket.
My recommendation for the general club level players or casual players is a 300-315g tennis racket, not too light nor too heavy, just around the mid range. Do not be fearful of a mid weight racket, nor inflate your ego by using an injury causing heavy racket.
To properly size your grip ( make sure its a relaxed grip do not hold i tight ), take your typical comfortable grip with your racket hand. Put the index finger of your off hand between the pad of your thumb and the tip of your index finger of your racket hand. Your finger should have a snug fit in between. If there is too much space, your grip is too big and if its too little space, your grip is too small.
Looking at the trend most people are getting size 2 grip rackets because Nadal uses a smaller sized racket. I assure you if you choose based on that, you will be experiencing bad tennis.
If you buy a grip that is too small or too large, you will be holding on to your dear life for the racket not to slip out and fly out of your hand. By holding on too tight to prevent it from slipping, you cause your muscles in your forearm to tense up, leading to your body being stiffer as a result.
With stiffness equals reduced flexibility, which then affects your body’s ability to absorb shock properly which will cause your joints to be affected, shoulder, wrist and elbows. So choose your grip wisely and not blindly.
With head size, less is more. A head size over 100 sq inches creates too much rebound because of its inability to remain stable. Usually a racket of 97-100 is what i would recommend after playing for many years. 97-100 sq inches makes the racket more compact and more stable, reducing the impact to your wrist and elbow.
A head light tennis racket with the weight more towards the grip will be easier on your wrist. Because the weight is closer to your wrist, you will not feel the weight of the racket as much as if the racket was a head heavy one, in which case the tennis racket’s weight will be going toward to head, which is what i do not recommend, even for beginners as it is not easy to maneuver the weight when its further a way from your wrist.
The wrist will be made to work harder as there might be excessive flexion and extension of the wrist especially for beginners with no experience or casual players who have not yet develop the muscles required. I suggest a slightly head light racket or a perfectly balanced one for the greatest comfort.
A racket with more give is going to absorb more force than a stiffer one. When returning a shot, the ball is travelling rapidly at high velocities towards you. As your racket meets the ball, this reverse momentum puts tremendous strain on your tendons and ligaments surrounding you wrist.
A comfortable racket should be able to absorb that force to ensure your arm is safe, instead of letting your arm take most of the force.
There are three things to consider here. Material, number of strings, and tension.
There are now immeasurable amounts of different strings available on the market.
- Natural Gut – the original and most playable, but not the most durable.
- Synthetic Gut / Nylon – for good all round performance.
- Multi-filament strings – for gut like characteristics.
- Durable Polyesters and Kevlar – The most popular and best for string breakers.
- The latest “softer” Polyesters and Multi-filament Polyesters – the latest innovation, less harsh on the arm.
If your elbow or wrist is in pain, use softer strings like natural gut and soft polyesters or soft multi-filament strings.
There is always a compromise between play-ability and durability, with natural gut and multi-filament strings being the most playable and Poly strings being the most durable.
This has led to the current fashion for combining different strings on the mains (vertical) and crosses (horizontal). The classic example of this is Roger Federer, whose favorite strings consist of a strong poly and natural gut. Rafa Nadal uses a soft poly string all round (Babolat RPM Blast).
There are endless string patterns available, so you may want to try out different pattern. Most rackets now are in the 16 X 19 pattern. This allows for added spin and power.
If you’re wrists are barking at you, you may want to instead try the 18 X 20 pattern or a smaller head size which makes the 16 x 19 pattern slightly denser. This spreads out the impact of the ball over a wider area and reduces vibration traveling down the racket.
Tension is an important factor when stringing your racket. Your racket will likely come labeled with a recommended range of string tension. You’ll want to set your tension toward the lower end of these settings to reduce wrist strain, usually around 40-45 pounds.
This allows more of a trampoline effect and cushions the impact of the ball on your strings. Your strings will also tend to last longer with theses settings.
Any injury that lasts more than 2 weeks or is recurring warrants a look by a doctor. This will rule out any serious concerns and will also help to locate precisely what part of your arm is the source.
It’s also a good idea to have your swing evaluated by a professional. Most players could improve their swing in some way but even the best racket may not fix extremely poor technique.
It’s also important to make changes gradually. Your body has likely adapted to your racket and playing style, so drastic changes to multiple factors can leave you open to further injury.
Now, one of the best tennis rackets for tennis wrist or tennis elbow are the Donnay rackets. Donnay rackets dampened vibrations four times quicker with less vibratory forces than other models tested upon impact with a standardized force. You can read the study done on their website here : https://www.donnaytennis.com/pages/the-scientific-explaination
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