Commentary Player Safety & Post Tension Concrete in Tennis Court Construction

Would you want your high school your track team athletes to practice and compete on bare concrete? How about your football team, basketball team, baseball team, lacrosse team, soccer team. What athlete do you know that does this? Tennis players! The time for building safe play areas for our young tennis athletes has come.

I recently article on court surfaces in Tennis Industry magazine and was shocked that professionals in the sports and engineering field , experienced in specifying athletic fields and running tracks, with high end shock attenuation and force reduction qualities are promoting the virtues of bare post tension concrete when it comes to the sport of tennis. What about protecting tennis athletes and extending their time on the court.

Shoe companies shout the shock absorbing qualities of tennis shoes in cushioning the athlete....come on who really believes this is the really the effective answer? Are we loosing some of the better athletes in school because of unsafe facilities?

How many high school tennis athletes are damaged, careers in tennis shortened because of substandard facilities? What happens to athletes that regularly practice and play on concrete? Joints, backs, leg fatigue, diminished careers, knee trama, ankle swelling. The fast paced game played on these unforgiving surfaces jolt the body. Parents that scream for protection to their high school athletes in sports don’t consider tennis. The fast paced serve and volley game promoted throughout the US is not developing better tennis players but is injuring countless possible future players that could be bringing the game of tennis back in popularity.

Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 1/6/1018 commented “Overall, recurrent injuries resulted in greater time away from sport, a higher risk of sport discontinuation, and a higher likelihood of surgical intervention. In tennis, the repetitive nature of high-velocity arm movements causes overuse injuries in the upper extremity while the sprinting, stopping and pivoting, and pounding motions place repeated rotational shear and loading forces on each joint of the lower extremities which, in turn, places the athlete at increased risk for acute and overuse injury. "

The problem is not that we do not have the technology, we do. Tennis is the only sport played on everything from grass, clay, crushed rock, synthetic turf, asphalt, concrete, rubber, urethane cushion, plastic tiles, carpet. Hard courts speed the ball up, creating more force on the arm, and keep the bounce lower. A few coats of paint may be pretty but it does not make a surface safe for young athletes.

Our public and private schools are not considering child safety when choosing tennis court construction. Schools should consider what bare concrete does to a young athlete. This is not to say that post tension concrete is not a good base, it is but the tennis surface needs to be more than a coat of paint. These player unfriendly facilities put schools and children at risk.

Lets grow the game by taking aim at keeping our young athletes healthier, safer from injury and the long term potentially effects of joint trama so they can continue playing careers in both recreational and in competitive environments. Maybe the USTA can help in bring back tennis by emphasizing safer surfaces to keep the athletes safer. Perhaps the American Sports Builders Association should work on solutions in construction. Lets all of us address this for the betterment of the game and our future in tennis. Rick Burke, President NGI Sports