Q: Many of my friends at the club play with a rubber vibration dampener inserted into their stringbed. Why use a dampener? Can it prevent injury? Where exactly should string dampeners be placed?
A: According to Greg Raven, a Master Racquet Technician for the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, dampeners are a personal preference. “There is a great deal about choosing tennis equipment that is subjective, including the use of a vibration dampener,” says Raven. “If players feel they perform better with a dampener, then they definitely should use one. Dampeners dampen string vibrations, not frame vibrations; in dampening string vibrations, they change the sound of the impact, which is probably the most influential aspect of using a string dampener.”
A: Joe Heydt, of Racquet Corner in Omaha, Nebraska, agrees with Raven that the rubber devices primarily affect auditory feedback, but adds that certain designs alter the sound of impact differently. “The ‘worm’ type dampener that weaves across many of the main strings will dampen more sound than the ‘button’ type, which only pinches between two of the mains,” points out Heydt. “Players who want a pock sound elect to use a worm dampener, players who only want a tiny ping use a button dampener, and those who want a ping use nothing.”
But whatever you choose, says Heydt, know that vibration dampeners do not eliminate “shock, which is what irritates an arm injury. They do not cure tennis elbow, change tension, increase string durability, or add spin. Dampeners will, however, change the way your racquet feels when the ball strikes the stringbed.”
A: Adam Queen, of Your Serve Tennis in Atlanta, likewise cautions players against the false notion that dampeners prevent injury. He also warns players against using the devices illegally. “According to the rules of tennis, a vibration dampener must be placed ‘outside the pattern of the crossed strings’ in the stringbed,” says Queen. “Thus, to comply with the rules, effectively damp vibrations, and reduce the chances of the ball striking the dampener, the devices are best placed just above the throat and pushed up against the bottom cross string.”
Bottom Line: Vibration dampeners are somewhat of a misnomer: They quiet string vibrations, not frame shock, and so do not prevent injury. If you’d like to hear a lower-pitched sound on impact, insert a dampener toward the bottom of the stringbed, beneath the last cross string.