Lumbar Mechanics in Tennis Groundstrokes: Differences in Elite Adolescent Players With and Without Low Back Pain

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Adolescent tennis players are at risk for low back pain (LBP). Recent research has demonstrated a potential mechanical etiology during serves; however, groundstrokes have also been suggested to load this region. Therefore, this study compared lumbar mechanics between players with and without a history of LBP during open and square stance tennis forehands and backhands. Nineteen elite, adolescent, male tennis players participated, 7 with a history of recurrent disabling LBP and 12 without. Differences in three-dimensional lumbar kinetics and kinematics were compared between pain/no pain groups and groundstrokes using linear mixed models (P < .01). There were no significant differences between pain/no pain groups. Relative to a right-handed player, groundstroke comparisons revealed that forehands had greater racquet velocity, greater lumbar right lateral flexion force, as well as upper lumbar extension/rightward rotation and lower lumbar right rotation/lateral flexion movements that were closer to or further beyond end of range than backhands. Backhands required upper lumbar leftward rotation that was beyond end range, while forehands did not. Given that players typically rotated near to their end of range during the backswing of both forehands and backhands, independent of pain, groundstrokes may contribute to the cumulative strain linked to LBP in tennis players.

Amity Campbell, Leon Straker, and Peter O’Sullivan are with the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Australia. David Whiteside is with the School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Innovation and Insights Group, Tennis Australia, Australia; and ISEAL, Victoria University, Australia. Bruce Elliott and Machar Reid are with the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Australia. Machar Reid is also with the Innovation and Insights Group, Tennis Australia, Australia.

Address author correspondence to David Whiteside at DWhiteside@tennis.com.au.