Best Rackets for Tennis Elbow
When suffering from tennis elbow, many players consider changing their racket instead of changing their strokes. If you are looking for a new racket to help you with your tender arm, knowing the attributes of a tennis racket that increase and decrease the pain associated with tennis elbow will help you pick the right make and model.
There is some disagreement concerning head size and its affect on tennis elbow. A larger head size provides a bigger "sweet spot," or area in which a tennis ball produces the least amount of shock and vibration. Shots hit dead-center hit looser strings, while shots hit to the side of a racket hit tighter strings, and create more shock. Since most players with tennis elbow are recreational tennis players who hit off-center shots, a larger sweet spot is important for decreasing the effects of balls not hit in the center of percussion on a tennis racket. Because a racket with large head size can increase racket head torque on off-center shots physicists and exercise physiologists recommend a mid-size racket, not an oversize frame.
Lighter rackets are marketed to tennis players as a way to get more acceleration, and therefore, more power on their shots. Lighter rackets are able to absorb less shock than heavier rackets, requiring the arm to take the extra punishment of ball/racket impact. Rackets are also balanced, with more weight toward the head or the grip, depending on the desired playing characteristics. A head-heavy racket creates a larger sweet spot; however, according to Racket Research, a head-light racket " . . . has significantly lower moment, resultant forces from impact (torque and impulse reaction), shock, work, shoulder pull, shoulder crunch, wrist crunch and elbow crunch." So, get your larger sweet spot from an oversized frame, not from a head-heavy frame.
A stiffer racket "gives" or deforms less when meeting a tennis ball, which is good for sending power back into the ball, but this means that the racket will experience more impact shock. A more flexible racket transfers less impact shock to the wrist, arm and elbow.
According to David Bayliff PT, MPT, research has shown that a larger grip creates less stress on the arm during a backhand (the shot which causes most tennis elbow problems), because it provides more stability during a tennis stroke.
Regardless of which frame you buy, how you string it will affect impact shock. Taking a light frame and stringing it at a higher tension will create a much different feel than if you string it a lower tension. Consider a gymnast bouncing on a trampoline (loose strings) or on a cement patio (tight strings). The trampoline provides more rebound, while the concrete offers more control, as well as more shock. If you have tennis elbow, do not buy a pre-strung racket; talk to a professional stringer about string gauge and tension, to decrease impact shock.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.