If you or your kids want to stay in shape and have fun but don't really like "traditional" team sports, try tennis! It can be played as part of a club with an organized league or at your leisure on public courts.

Fortunately, serious injuries in tennis are rare, but there are some injuries that can occur without careful attention. Tennis injuries fall into two categories: cumulative/overuse injuries (the most common) and acute or traumatic injuries (less common) caused by sudden force or impact.

To learn how to minimize the risk of injury while playing tennis, follow these safety tips.

Gear Guidelines

Tennis gear may seem pretty straightforward, but putting some thought into the racket, socks and shoes you use can go a long way toward preventing injuries.

Here are a few basic guidelines to follow when you or your kids are choosing equipment:

  • Racket. Using a racket that is too light or too heavy can increase your risk of shoulder and elbow injuries. Likewise, a racket with the wrong grip size or the wrong amount of tension in the strings can be hard on your wrists and arms. Consult a trained professional at a tennis specialty store to make sure you get a racket that is appropriate for your size and skill level.
  • Sneakers. Get shoes specifically designed for tennis and the court surface. A proper shoe will support the heel, keep the ankle from rolling and decrease side-to-side sliding. Additionally, heel inserts can minimize stress on the lower back, especially when playing on hard courts.
  • Socks. Choose socks made from synthetic fabrics rather than cotton, as these will help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. For added support, consider specially padded tennis socks.

Before Playing

Staying in shape will help prevent injuries, so get plenty of exercise and eat right year-round. Also, warm up and stretch before playing tennis. Do some jumping jacks or run in place for a minute or two to warm up muscles, and then stretch arms, wrists, shoulders and legs.

Inspect the court before you start, and never play on a wet court - even the slightest amount of moisture on a court will make it slippery and can lead to injury.

While Playing

Using proper technique will not only make you a better tennis player, it will also help to prevent injuries. If you have questions about your technique, consider taking a lesson from a trained instructor.

Have water on hand to drink during breaks in play, and try to take some time to rest in the shade between games and sets.

If the handle of your racquet becomes wet from perspiration, dry it frequently to avoid getting blisters on your hands.

As with any physical activity, if you feel any pain or discomfort in your joints or muscles, stop immediately. Don't resume your activity until you have approval from a doctor.

A Few Other Reminders

· Kids should have a pre-season sports physical exam (different from a regular physical exam) before every season to be sure they are ready to play.

  • Everyone needs plenty of time off to rest between matches and training sessions. Overtraining is one of the most common causes of tennis injuries.
  • Avoid playing in adverse weather conditions. Hot weather presents a real risk of heat-related illness and cold weather can lead to muscle injury, especially if you don't warm up enough.