Here is a guide to help you choose the best tennis racket for tennis elbow.
Mike Herd is an LTA Level 4 Tennis Coach and UKRSA Certified Racket Stringer And Technician. This is a guide for tennis players who want to limit their chances of getting tennis elbow (TE) , or reduce the pain associated with it. Hopefully this advice may even help to cure your TE which it has done for some of my players. Topics covered are; best tennis racket for tennis elbow, best string and other factors which contribute to tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow (TE) is one of the biggest problems in today’s modern game. The ITF estimate that 50% of tennis players will suffer from tennis elbow at some point during their playing career. It is a really common complaint for many club level players. Professional players very rarely get TE due to their off court strength training and efficient stroke biomechanics.
Once you have TE it is very hard to get rid of and can be agonisingly painful. It can get so bad that it hurts to pick up a pen, or even a pint!! Do not ignore any twinges and think that it will just go away over time. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have just pulled out of upcoming tournaments due to elbow injuries. It has been reported that both have them have continued to play through pain and who knows how long they might be out for now!
Your day job or other hobbies might be making your TE worse or could even be the main cause. Make sure to see a good physio who can advise further and assess your situation.
Main factors for tennis elbow (in no particular order)
- Technique (especially one handed backhands)
- Type of racket
- Type of string and tension
- Grip size
- Old and dead tennis balls
Any off centre hits can increase your chances of doing damage to your elbow as more vibration is transmitted to your arm. Improving your technique can reduce your amount off centre hits and therefore reduce the amount of shock.
The single handed backhand is widely known to cause TE for club level players. However with that being said your serve, forehand, double handed backhand could be the source of the problem.This can often be down to poor technique. Lots of club players try and muscle the ball with their arm and as a result this puts a lot of stress on the arm, wrist and shoulder. You should try to use your legs and body weight when making contact with the shot. Check out this top tip from Kris Soutar who runs the Service Box in the video below. The Service Box is a a high performing tennis development company servicing many areas from grass roots to high performance. This tip will help to take a lot of stress off your arm and also improve your contact point, power and consistency.
Players can also sometimes often finish in awkward positions with their arm during the follow through and don’t use their other arm to guide the racket back on the take back. Loosening your grip can also help and changing to a two handed backhand has worked for some of my players.
Mike would really recommend having your technique assessed by a qualified tennis professional who can assess all of these areas.
Best tennis racket for tennis elbow
Light and stiff rackets can be very DANGEROUS for your arm as more shock is absorbed to the arm rather than the racket. Brands like Babolat are renowned for not being arm friendly.
Head heavy rackets and aluminium frames (often cheap rackets) are also very harsh.
A good place to start is in the 275 – 300 gram range which would suit most levels of players. However it is worth trying to use the heaviest racket that you can handle (pardon the pun). This will involve testing a few rackets out, so don’t be afraid to try out some frames that exceed 300 grams. Most rackets from Yonex and Prince are arm friendly and play great. The Wilson Clash 100 which is 300 grams is another great arm friendly racket. Take a look at the Tennis Nuts who are based in the UK and offer great prices.
You also need a racket that has a lower flex rating, the lower the better. Ideally the racket is very low 60s or even better in the 50s.
Yonex DR 100, Wilson Clash 100 and Prokennex Q5 315 are three rackets that have worked really well for two of my players with arm problems. These are all between 300 – 315 grams unstrung and have a head light balance. These rackets may be feel too heavy for a few players especially if you have been using a lighter racket. This is why we recommend trying a variety of rackets and weights out.
Try your local sports shop and ask to see if they have the above rackets or any alternatives with similar specs, and are ARM FRIENDLY. Try rackets BEFORE buying. Mike will be doing a blog soon listing more arm friendly rackets so keep an eye out for this.
To summarise and to help you find the best tennis racket for tennis elbow – make sure you choose a racket which has a low flex rating (low 60s minimum but even lower if you can), is a full graphite material and use the heaviest racket that you can handle (at least 275 grams and above) and has a head light balance.
Take a look on our latest blog Best tennis string for intermediate players which is also suitable for beginners and advanced level club players, which will go into strings and tensions in more depth.
Dead strings lose all of their shock absorption and there is only one place that vibration can go – your elbow!!
Polyester string is one the main offenders for tennis elbow. It is a very stiff and dead string which most club players will never break. If you have arm problems cut this string out immediately. If you like the polyester string, I would avoid using a full bed of it and would try to use an alternative string or to try a hybrid.
Many players also never change their strings. Strings lose tension over time and also lose their elasticity and playing characteristics, such as feel. This results in a big loss in power and control which means players have to muscle the ball to generate any sort of power or depth. Many strings lose most of their performance after 20 hours of play.
Use a multifilament or natural gut string as these are really soft on the arm (they also play really well!). A synthetic gut is also okay, but a multifilament is more arm friendly and plays really well. Using a thinner gauge (thickness of string) can help. If you are not a string breaker go for the thinnest possible. A 17 gauge isn’t a bad place to start for most players.
It is important to look for a qualified stringer so that your frame can be strung correctly, and that the right string and tension is used.
Too many players string in the high 50s or 60s which is tougher on the arm. Drop your string tension right down to the low 50s. If this doesn’t help, then try dropping it further to in the 40s as this can help massively. If you are a performance player who still wants to use polyester, a lower tension of 50lbs or below will definitely help your arm.
Make sure you have the correct grip size and that you change your grip regularly. See Measure grip size. A soft cushiony or tacky grip can make a big difference and prevent you from gripping too tightly. If your grip is a bit too small – add one overgrip over the original replacement grip (increases grip size by a 1/2) Maybe your grip is one size too small? A UKRSA technician can increase your grip by 1 whole size using a heat shrink sleeve without losing any of the feel of the bevels. Don’t just keep applying loads of grips as it won’t feel nice.
Using the biggest grip size you can handle (sorry) and changing your grips frequently can also stop you gripping too hard.
Old Tennis balls
Old and dead tennis balls can be a real KILLER for your arm. Some of them feel like rocks! make sure to play with new tennis balls whenever you can.
Tennis elbow support straps
Tennis elbow support straps could be worth trying out. Feedback has been mixed from some of my players, but they might work for you. They could definitely be worth a try.
Hopefully the above tips will relieve some of your pain or get you back on the court. Ensure you seek advice from your doctor or physio before playing. There are exercises that they can give you that will hopefully help to cure your tennis elbow. You may even be able to hold your pint glass without a grimace after a 5 set thriller!
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Got any questions? Feel free to send Mike an email on [email protected]. He would love to help you!