The importance of the flat serve in tennis is well documented, with an abundance of research evaluating the service technique of adult male players. Comparatively, the female and junior serves have received far less attention. Therefore, the aims of this study were to quantify the flat serve kinematics in elite prepubescent, pubescent, and postpubescent female tennis players. Full body, racket, and ball kinematics were derived using a 22-camera Vicon motion capture system. Racket velocity was significantly lower in the prepubescent group than in the two older groups. In generating racket velocity, the role of the serving arm appears to become more pronounced after the onset of puberty, whereas leg drive and “shoulder-over-shoulder” rotation mature even later in development. These factors are proposed to relate to strength deficits and junior players’ intentions to reduce the complexity of the skill. Temporally, coupling perception (cues from the ball) and action (body movements) are less refined in the prepubescent serve, presumably reducing the “rhythm” (and dynamism) of the service action. Practically, there appears scope for equipment scaling to preserve kinematic relevance between the junior and senior serve and promote skill acquisition.
David Whiteside, Bruce Elliott, Brendan Lay, and Machar Reid
Amity Campbell, Leon Straker, David Whiteside, Peter O’Sullivan, Bruce Elliott, and Machar Reid
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.