Exercise is good for you. Period. There should be no argument.
Tennis, though, also has its down sides. Essentially it works one side of the body more than the other (depending on which is your dominant hand) and is a relatively high-impact sport that's not kind to aging joints -- knees, shoulders, elbows and even wrists and hands. You just have to look at the number of golfers who were former tennis players to see that golf is the kinder game.
(This is the day that Health Notes gets personal. Visit www.dailypress.com/healthnotes daily to get updates on local and national health news.)
When you read this, I will be in Palm Springs, Calif., a continent away from my desk in Newport News, Va.. I will be there competing against other women around my advancing age ("seniors" are currently the 50 and older crowd by U.S. Tennis Association rules) in senior tennis doubles at the 4.5 level.
In the course of getting to this national event, my team played local opponents over several weeks; went to Wintergreen to play teams from across the state; returned to Newport News to play sectionals against other teams from the Mid-Atlantic region. And now, the big time!
That's just to say that I've played more tennis in recent weeks than ever before in my life - and more competitively. And in doing so, I"ve learned more about minor injuries and how to take care of them than I ever knew before.
What I've learned:
1) when you first hurt a muscle, use ICE. The heat comes later. Ice, applied promptly after exercise or injury, really does speed recovery. For me it's worked for lower back sprain and persistent elbow 'discomfort' (OK - tennis elbow for which at this stage rest is a cure. Just hope I don't push it to the next level). And for a right foot that almost put me out of the game -- 2 days before sectionals, I slipped on a wet floor, planted my right foot and did a complete 360. It didn't hurt at first, but I iced it immediately. It still swelled and the swelling and pain continued for almost 4 weeks, but thanks to that initial icing, I was still functional.
2) Advil works to "relieve minor aches and pains" - but too much an it can make you jittery. I take one before playing and one between sets.
3) Ace bandages work. See #1. I found a foot/ankle bandage that kept my right foot from collapsing and I could just squeeze into an old tennis shoe with worn-out soles, wider than my current pair and no longer available.
4) In the heat of competition I jammed a big toe, forcing it into the nail bed. It was black and blue all around and it hurt. Tape, just surgical tape wrapped around it several times, and Advil did the trick, allowing me to play the next day ... and the next, and the next. The nail finally dropped off some 3 weeks later.
Is it fun? I'll let you know! I'm looking forward to giving my body a rest -- and some more balanced workouts.
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