The more matches a young tennis player has in any one tournament, the higher his or her risk of becoming ill or injured, a new study suggests.
In the US, competitive junior tennis players can take part in 48 to 64 national tournaments per year, along with any regional and local tournaments they enter. Added to an intense practice schedule, this gives young players ample opportunity to injure themselves.
Until now, there had been no large-scale studies to determine which junior players are at particular risk of injury during competitions. The new study looked at data from all four United States Tennis Association national junior tournaments in 2005, involving players between the ages of 12 and 18.
Researchers found that once players progressed past four matches in any one event, their risk of having to withdraw for medical reasons rose substantially. Overall, the rate of medical withdrawal after the fourth match was double that for the first four matches of any tournament, the researchers report in the journal Sports Health.
Players should be rested
The findings, they write, suggest that tournament organisers should re- evaluate their scheduling process, and consider giving players more between-match rest time once they advance beyond four matches.
"It makes sense that a player would have an increased risk for injury or illness as the tournament continues due to variables such as dehydration, stress (both emotional and physical), and exhaustion," lead researcher Dr Neeru A. Jayanthi, of Loyola University in Chicago, said.
The researchers also found that boys were more likely to withdraw for medical reasons than girls, and singles players had a higher risk than doubles players.
Jayanthi pointed out that medical withdrawal rates among junior players are higher than injury rates in other "overhand" non-contact sports, like baseball and softball - and closer to that of college-level contact sports such as soccer. – (Reuters Health, May 2009)