Question of Day: Warding Off Elbow Pain
TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.
Hi Justin, I'm emailing regarding some pain I've been having in my inner elbow. (I’m assuming it’s golfer’s elbow.) I use the Babolat Pure Drive, 10.6 ounces and 100 sq. in. head size. I use Enduro Pro 17 gauge, which I string at 55 lbs. I’ve been playing with the racquet for three months, and it’s been in the last month that I’ve been experiencing pain in my inner elbow. I used to play with the Wilson 6.1 95, strung with Luxilon at 55 lbs. But I switched racquets and string in the hopes of getting more forgiveness. I have always had some elbow pain, but recently the pain has been particularly bad. Any thoughts or advice you have on potential treatment would be awesome. Thanks for your time!—Eric Leblanc
As always, Eric, before considering any of my health-related equipment advice, please make sure to meet with a licensed physician or physiotherapist. It goes without saying that therapy or medical intervention may be the first step toward ameliorating your tennis elbow.
That said, the unfortunate truth is that neither of your racquet set-ups—Babolat or Wilson—are geared toward reducing the risk of elbow injury. For starters, both the Babolat Pure Drive and Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 feature stiff constructions, which are great for hitting powerful shots, but at the same time place increased stress on the arm. Furthermore, polyester strings like Wilson Enduro Tour can be very hard on the elbow, especially when strung at 55 lbs. and above.
So what are some remedies? As I wrote in a recent “Midweek Mailbag,” there are number of steps, enumerated below, that you can take to reduce the impact forces acting on your body.
1) Switch to a softer string, preferably natural gut. If you’re dead-set on sticking with monofilament, play test thinner gauges and softer makes, such as Babolat Pro Hurricane 18. A full of strings, organized by category and ordered by stiffness level, can be found on the USRSA’s website here.
2) String at lower tensions—in the high 50s with natural gut, low 50s with a multifilment, high 40s with a monofilament (in lbs.)
3) Avoid racquets that are very light (~<10 oz.) and/or very head-heavy (~>5 pts. HH).
4) Avoid racquets with RA (i.e., stiffness) values in the upper 60s and above. As mentioned above, your Babolat Pure Drive falls within this range.
5) Use a thicker, softer grip.
6) Improve your form by taking lessons from a certified teaching professional.
Finally, keep in mind that racquets described as “forgiving” are not necessarily good for the arm. In the tennis industry, the word “forgiveness” refers to easy power and increased stability on off-center hits—attributes that, depending on a racquet’s design, can place players at risk for injury.