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Talking Tennis Injuries and Injury Prevention with Dr. David Geier

Dr. David Geier holds board certifications in both orthopaedic surgery and orthopaedic sports medicine. He serves as publications chair for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, as well as, the Communications Council chair for its board of directors.

Dr. David Geier, an orthopaedic expert, is well-versed in tennis

Previously, Dr. Geier was the director of sports medicine at an academic medical center in Charleston, South Carolina. He now serves as the medical director of sports medicine at East Cooper Regional Medical Center outside Charleston.

Injuries play a major role in the sport of tennis. Dr. Geier is well versed in the sport of tennis; he served as tournament doctor for the WTA Tour event in Charleston for several years. He gives some tips, not only for junior tennis players that are 12 and under, but also for that 13-17 year-old age group that might be looking to play tennis at elite levels.


Questions and Answers

Rick Limpert (RL): A lot of kids and parents are looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as it comes to earning a college scholarship. Kids are starting younger and younger in their pursuit. What's your take on kids playing multiple sports when they are young, and as they develop?

Dr. David Geier (DG): I absolutely believe kids should play multiple sports. I spoke with Brandi Chastain, who was a longtime member of the US Women's National team for soccer, and she told me that not a single member of that team that won the World Cup played only soccer while growing up. If that isn't a good statement, I don't know what is. It lowers the risk of injury by shifting stress to different parts of the body. These kids are still growing; they are at risk for overuse injuries. Play soccer for your lower body, then switch to tennis for upper body and coordination. Playing different sports helps with balance and coordination. You get skills in one sport that you don't get in your main sport.

RL: Does playing multiple sports help keep kids interested and avoid a possible burnout?

DG: There is no question, and thanks for pointing that out. Burnout is not something we normally associate with youth sports; it's something we think about with our job. What we do know is 70% of kids drop out of sports by age 13. One of the reasons is burnout and pressure from parents and coaches. It's preventable by having kids try multiple sports, making it fun and not putting pressure on kids that are seven and eight years old. It's not about just winning and statistics. Kids should learn proper techniques, but involve the family and friends to keep things fun.

RL: Now for a lot of athletes and families, that 13-17 age range is critical when it comes to realizing certain kids have possibilities for college scholarships or professional careers. Do these kids have to look at things differently?

DG: There are lot of factors at every level. Kids under 12, still have their growth plates open and are at risk of overuse and injury. High school kids have muscles that have started to grow, and that means pressure is being taken off bones and ligaments. They can handle longer practices and close to year-round training. These kids are also maturing emotionally and mentally.

RL: Should we listen to the kids if they say they are sore and hurting? What should parents or coaches do?

DG: Absolutely. Both are important. Watch the kids to see if motions are different. Kids typically won't tell a parent or coach they are hurting. They don't want to let a parent or their teammates down. They aren't intentionally trying to hide pain; they are trying to push through it. Parents and coaches shouldn't hammer down on the kids. I always tell parents or coaches that after a match, they should ask about fun things. Steer the conversation away from sports or tennis and have a conversation. If you do that for a week or a month or more, kids will develop a trust and rapport and will open up when they are hurting. It's then that you take it seriously and get it checked out. You can treat it early and prevent more serious injuries that will keep an athlete out of action for multiple months.

RL: If a young athlete appears to be in pain or is struggling on the court or field, how quickly should the parents consult with a doctor?

DG: I don't know if there is an absolute right amount of time. Maybe the first step would be to take them out of that sport for a day or few days to give them some rest and see how they do. If it is still giving them some trouble, maybe then it's time to get it checked out. Sure, a lot of people are scared to go to a doctor, or an orthopedic surgeon, because they are afraid they are going to be shut down or need surgery. Most of the time with our youth, that is not the case, especially if we can catch it early. Maybe they need a little physical therapy and they might get back fast.

RL: Best diet for a young tennis player?

DG: This is constantly changing. For kids, it's best to avoid the bad things. I think there is some debate about the low or no carb diet, so I'm not going to weigh in on that, but I'm a believer in healthy foods and lots of green vegetables. Avoid fast foods and soft drinks, especially when traveling. Don't drink the high caffeine energy drinks, they are bad for performance. Drink lots of water and use common sense. They fine tune at the pro level, but for kids use "best judgement" and common sense.

RL: You served as an onsite doctor for a WTA event in what was formerly called "The Family Circle Cup." What were some of the common ailments that players were coming to you with, and have you noticed trends in the tennis world?

DG: Great question. One of the challenges of professional tennis is that they travel and play all the time. Their bodies get tired a lot. Fatigue is a real issue with tennis players, and if you talk to them, they will tell you that they are just tired. Rest is needed, and I know that the WTA Tour has made efforts with the scheduling to get them rest, but it's a challenge with sponsors and ranking points and other factors. It's about balance and getting rest. This trickles down to our youth levels as well.

RL: Warm up and cool down, for injury prevention and performance. What do you recommend?

DG: It's very important. I personally don't warm up a lot, so I don't listen to my own advice. You see all these muscle injuries. Quads, hamstrings and calf injuries that come about with players making a lunge, and they have not warmed up properly. You see this often with high school and junior players. Even five minutes of warm up and stretching is better than nothing. But do an extensive warm up if you have the time and prevent muscle and tendon injuries.

RL: Form and strokes can vary if you go and watch junior tournament. Tennis used to be taught in one way, but now, the sky is the limit. Does that make a difference when it has come to injuries?

DG: It's not a question as whether one style is better than another, but yes, this a good question. Poor technique can increase the possibility of injury. Not engaging your core and your legs can be bad. If you have bad technique, the injury risk goes up. If you a are a young tennis player or the parent of a young tennis player, the time to get (hitches) and problems with technique fixed is while they are young. Once it becomes ingrained and a habit, it's hard to correct.

Dr. Geier's book, That's Gotta Hurt, shows how injuries impact sports

RL: The heights of players on tour, especially with 6'10" and 6'11" giants like John Isner and Ivo Karlovic, has that amazed you, along with their longevity?

DG: No question. There are better athletes now in tennis than ever before. It's really true on the women's side, when it comes to strength. Every successful player is now lean and muscular. You and I have been covering and involved in tennis for a longtime, and you now see these women's working out and doing weights after matches. The emphasis on conditioning and physical strength is now part of the tennis tours. Great advice is to use the right technique in working out and tailor- make a program to what your needs and goals are. Get some qualified advice.

RL: You see plenty of shoulder injuries in a sport like baseball, but do we see those same shoulder problems develop in tennis?

DG: The motions in tennis spread their forces out a little more. Now we see a lot of wrist injuries in tennis. The good players spread the forces out to more than just elbows and shoulders.

RL: Sports that might compliment tennis for young players?

DG: Tennis is an unique combination of both lower and upper body strength. Soccer takes a lot of explosiveness and agility, but another one that might surprise people is swimming. Swimming helps with shoulder and back stress, which is important for tennis. It's also terrific conditioning. These would be great for cross-training.

Dr. David Geier has a new book out, That’s Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever.

A great read for anyone involved in tennis and sports in general. In "That’s Gotta Hurt," the orthopaedist David Geier shows how sports medicine has had a greater impact on the sports we watch and play than any technique or concept in coaching or training. Injuries among professional and college athletes have forced orthopaedic surgeons and other healthcare providers to develop new surgeries, treatments, rehabilitation techniques, and prevention strategies.


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About Rick Limpert

Rick Limpert is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. He covers sports and technology for the likes of Yahoo News and Sports and has covered tennis at all levels for almost 10 years. His website is www.ricklimpert.info and you can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell.

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Page updated on Wednesday, July 19, 2017
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