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Return to Play Guidelines for the Injured Tennis Player

Tennis a fun sport that can be played for many years.  It is also a sport that can come with injury.  Below is a general guideline for tennis players to follow for returning to the game after an injury safely and effectively.  Individualized progressions should be established by your physical therapist based off area of injury and severity of injury.

General rules of progression (mostly applying to upper extremity injuries):

  • Keep stretching the whole body throughout the progression back even when not on the court 
  • Keep stretching during your training sessions as needed 
  • Establish a good stability/resistance training program for the whole body specific to tennis
  • Do not start with an open stance initially with forehand groundstrokes but rather work into a semi-closed then open up as you get more comfortable (maybe 2-3 weeks into your return)
  • Initially, limit the amount of spin on the ball then gradually build up as you tolerate (especially for upper extremity injuries)
  • Can start doing swinging volleys and slices (if applicable to your skill level) 3-4 weeks into your progression if comfortable (get individualized progression from your PT)
  • Once cleared by your doctor or physical therapist, progress by 25% intensity (of how hard you are hitting) each week if progressing without issue
  • Increase amount of time practicing certain shots adding 5 minutes per week until you get to your desired training time
  • Make sure to warm up with specified warm up drills before starting the hitting progression
  • Supplement your training with cross training/cardiovascular exercise specific to tennis
  • Once you are practicing at 100% output with minimal discomfort during and after for 4-5 practice sessions and 2-3 simulated matches, then you can start playing in actual matches. Recommend simulated matches to start so breaks can be taken as needed (instead of entering into a tournament right away).  If you can start back into a scenario where you just have 1 match a day, that’s ideal.  Jumping into a tournament setting where you have several matches in a day could lead to re-injury or increased soreness.

If you have any questions regarding the above information, or are sidelined by an injury, give Omaha Physical Therapy Institute a call today!  Good luck with your return to the court!


Félix I, Dines D, Dines J. Interval Return to Play Programs for the Tennis Athlete. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2021 Apr;14(2):185-191. doi: 10.1007/s12178-021-09701-y. Epub 2021 Feb 3. Erratum in: Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2021 Aug;14(4):271. PMID: 33532974; PMCID: PMC7990973.

Disclaimer:  This is advice is educational and should not be the sole source of medical advice.  Consult with your physical therapist or physician for further questions and treatment tailored specific to you and your goals.

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