Recently Wimbledon, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world, came to a historic finish as Great Britain got their first champion since 1936. Tennis has a long history and its popularity has grown substantially in the last few years. As we’ve become more aware of how beneficial an active lifestyle can be, more people than ever are playing tennis as a way to maintain their fitness. People who have undergone a total hip or knee replacement are especially likely to choose tennis, since orthopedists and other healthcare practitioners often include it as one of their recommended sports.
However, it’s important to keep certain precautions in mind when you approach the tennis court after a knee or hip replacement:
- Always follow your orthopedic surgeon’s recommendations for the approximate time frame when you can start playing tennis.
- Talk to your physical therapist about your desire to play tennis, whether you’re returning to the court or planning to take it up for the first time. You’ll need adequate strength and flexibility to meet the demands of the sport, and your physical therapist can work those goals into your program. Your program should also include tennis specific movements, which you should be able to perform without apprehension before you start playing.
- A clay court surface is recommended after a total joint replacement, since it’s softer and slower than hard courts. Clay courts allow you to slide into your shots and have more time to prepare for your strokes.
- Before starting to play competitively with your new knee or hip, take a hitting lesson with a teaching professional to regain your timing for shots as well as assess your movement.
- A proper warm-up should be part of your routine before starting to hit tennis balls. Your warm-up should include light running, agility movements such as side-steps or forward/back, and dynamic stretching.
- Playing doubles rather than singles is recommended, since it gives you a smaller court area to cover and is less physically demanding.
- Do not forget to stretch after your tennis match. Static stretches can be performed by holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds and doing 2-3 repetitions.
- Most importantly, enjoy this great sport throughout your lifetime.
Pawel Wawrzyniak is a doctor of physical therapy at the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. He played Division I collegiate tennis for four years, and has taught tennis to all levels of players at the USTA National Tennis Center and West Side Tennis Club, where he was a hitting partner to WTA tour players.