Too many "red flags"

A worrying development due to a combination of "too much" sitting and one-sided training.

Together with our expert Silvester Neidhardt, who has not only trained thousands of athletic trainers, physiotherapists and doctors in his career, but has also tested and trained hundreds of players and athletes from a wide variety of sports, we put several players under the microscope. Among them were world-class players, top juniors, club junior players, young children, ITF seniors, and many club and recreational adult players.

Silvester used various “tests” to check joint functionality, mobility and stability and the results were – in his words – too often “in the red zone” in several areas.

A quick explanation is needed here:

A result in the red zone means “anatomically very limited”. The yellow zone results mean, movements are performed with compensation and the green zone means everything is working well.

Interestingly - and unfortunately also frighteningly - the results for tennis players (as well as for many other athletes in other sport arts) are almost always the same: Despite the fact that many players specialized in their sport, their ROM (Range Of Motion) and associated stability is usually quite deficient.

Testing shoulder internal rotation with Sina Herrmann

Testing ankle joint with junior player Nick Dufner

Mobility session and testing with young players and his father.

Activation of the gluteal muscle at the TennisGate workshop.

Testing ankle during live stream in Leimen.

Mobility test with seniors on court.

Eye test on court with young talents of the Freiburger Tennis Club.

Screening with young female players at the FTC.

Screening with ITF TOP5 senior and world champion Christian Schultes.

Screening with ATP-Pro Johannes Härteis.

Screening with WTA player Alex Vecic.

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Here is what it meant to be in the "red zone" for our players


Here is what it meant to be in the “red zone” for our players

The feet
Problem: Many shoes support the foot far too much affecting Joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Deformities such as flat, splayed or bent feet are visible and the control of the toes is very limited. The soles of our feet are highly intelligent, equipped with up to 200,000 nerve endings and sensors (more sensory cells than our face), which provides us with and ideal feedback in terms of their position relative to the ground as well as allowing us to regulate our musculature to maintain or restore our body’s balance – even during very fast movements.

The ankle joint is too stiff and can’t properly bend, but at the same time is too mobile in certain areas, which leads to valgus formations (valgus – crooked) or a knock-kneed position under load. It is understandable that stiff ankle joints (some lacked 20° of bending ability!) affect the ability to push off quickly, to change direction and to land in balance. In addition, stiff ankles are more susceptible to injury, which unfortunately happens too often in tennis.

The hips are too stiff, especially in internal and external rotation. No wonder the players finds it hard to rotate into their strokes. Tight hips also lead to slower “side-steps” making it more difficult to get out of the corner using crossover steps.

In addition to the immobility of the hips, there was another frightening element that had a fatal effect on hip and upper body stability. The complete inactivity of the gluteal muscle! The so called “dead butt syndrome”.

Sitting for long hours causes your buttocks to atrophy and forget their function (to straighten the upper body). At the same time, it causes your anterior hip musculature to contract, resulting in a restricted natural pelvic rotation, as other muscle structures take over their tasks. This often results in lower back pain.

The irony is that hip extension is essential for every tennis stroke.

The thoracic spine is usually contracted leading to forward rolling shoulders and folded shoulder blades affecting the fluidity of the swinging motion for the groundstrokes or overhead strokes.

The shoulder and arm movements presented the following problems:

  • Lack of control by the motor system, due to a functional problem (ex. poor scapula control).
  • Hunched shoulders, often caused by typical everyday life (sitting for long periods or one-sided training).
  • In the gym there is little in the way of three-dimensional training: Quantity through the heaviest possible weight can be at the expense of quality. Hunched backs, misalignments and compensatory movements can spoil the soup of what is actually a well-intentioned training program

All players in our study were startled at first by our findings, but then quickly realized the potential gains in performance they could achieve by improving mobility and optimizing stability. After the tests, every player left with a plan and we have already noticed many positive changes – of course we are excited about further developments. Not only because of the improvements in performance, but especially because of the effect on long term injury prevention, faster recovery and career longevity.

Players, coaches and parents were very grateful for this testing and the resulting insights.

Tennis players of all ages and levels, from world class, young professional to ambitious youth athletes have been functionally screened by TennisGate expert Silvester Neidhardt. The special TennisGate performance screen also includes a review while playing the sport on court. This not only delighted the players, but also coaches and parents.

What coaches, players and parents say