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Post-match or post-training recovery techniques and modalities

This is an excerpt from Tennis Anatomy by E. Paul Roetert & Mark Kovacs.

In addition to proactive approaches, many recovery techniques are somewhat reactionary to the imposed demands of the activity (training or competition). A variety of modalities are used and recommended. Some modalities have extensive research support. Others have minimal scientific support but reportedly make athletes feel better. Many aspects of recovery relate to the type of fatigue (neural versus cellular, for example), and different techniques can be used to help in both physiological and perceived recovery. Many top professional, collegiate, junior, and adult tennis players currently use the following modalities to assist in the recovery process.

Myofascial Release

A growing field of modalities are based around the concept of myofascial release, which improves muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing blood and (possibly) lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. The most common techniques use a foam roller (see exercises at the end of the chapter) or massage stick. Many other techniques also focus on relieving tension and tight spots throughout the various muscles of the body.

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

Active recovery has been shown to be one of the most beneficial recovery techniques available. However, riding a bike or going for a slow jog after a three- or four-hour tennis match may be challenging. The use of appropriate EMS devices allows non-fatiguing muscle contractions, which can be performed for hours, to allow consistent blood flow. This helps to move deoxygenated blood from the focused-on muscle groups and replace it with oxygenated blood. The more oxygenated blood to the area, the better the recovery process.

Stretching

Stretching is both a recovery and a performance technique. After tennis play, range of motion is reduced because of the fatigue and deceleration requirements during strokes and movement. It is important to stretch after play to return range of motion to preexercise levels. Over time, stretching also helps to improve overall range of motion and create greater performance benefits.

Cryotherapy

Cooling techniques (e.g., ice baths and cooling packs) have been around for many decades. However, limited research exists to support the use of cryotherapy for general recovery beyond the analgesic response. Many athletes perceive a benefit from losing feeling in the area for a certain amount of time after application. It should be noted that recent studies have shown that consistent cooling of muscle has a long-term negative effect on muscle strength. Therefore, we recommended that you limit the scope of when and how cooling techniques are used if the goal is to improve strength and power over time.

Other Techniques

Many other devices and manual therapies and tools are used to help improve blood flow and tissue quality and provide psychological relaxation. Although research on many of these other techniques is either nonexistent or limited, many of them are still used based on perceived benefit, word of mouth, or other reasons. Therefore, these techniques may have limited use. Examples of these methods include hyperbaric chambers and altitude tents.