Stroke Smart Magazine
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Yes You Can—Even After Stroke
By Candy B. Harrington
Tennis is an ideal sport for stroke survivors. It’s great exercise. It promotes socialization. It doesn’t cost much. And, it is an integrated sport; wheelchair-users can play alongside or against able-bodied players.
There are many health benefits to playing tennis. The sport provides a good cardiovascular workout. It can strengthen muscles. And tennis can help improve balance and coordination.
Wheelchair tennis requires minimal equipment a racquet, tennis balls and your wheelchair. You can play the sport in a manual or power wheelchair. For recreational purposes, a standard wheelchair is adequate. If you are unable to grasp the racquet with your dominant hand, you can wrap athletic tape or an AceŽ bandage around the racquet to secure it to you. Special orthopedic racquet holders and grasping gloves are available if more support is needed. But in most cases, homemade devices will do the trick. Experiment with materials on hand before investing in adaptive equipment. If you have problems with balance, use waist, knee or chest straps to secure yourself in your wheelchair.
The rules for wheelchair tennis are slightly modified. The main difference is that wheelchair-users are allowed to let the ball bounce twice before hitting it. Standard rules allow players only one bounce, even when they are playing with a wheelchair-user.
So how do you begin? First, find a friend to play with. Next, find a court. The U.S. Tennis
Association website includes a handy tennis court search section. Once you’ve found courts near you, ask about wheelchair-access.
Consider scheduling your first practice session for a weekday, when there will be fewer players on the court. Once you get comfortable with hitting the ball, you might want to take lessons. Many colleges, recreation districts, YMCAs, adaptive sports associations and national tennis associations offer wheelchair tennis programs. Some integrate wheelchair-users into their standard programs. You also can search for adaptive tennis programs online at the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (click on “programs”).
If you prefer a self-study approach, the United States Professional Tennis Association offers video lessons on wheelchair tennis basics. Just go to the website listed below and click on the “lessons online” link under the education tab. The International Tennis Federation offers a free informational CD about wheelchair tennis (“So, What’s Stopping You?”); you can order it on the organization’s website.
So go ahead give it a try. Tennis really is the perfect sport for just about everyone.
DR. HARRIET ENZOR’S TENNIS TIPS
1. Look for a wheelchair tennis program that provides tennis chairs, equipment and instruction.
2. Use the internal strength that helped you become a stroke survivor.
3. Involve able bodied friends and family.
4. Have an open mind and have fun!
Dr. Enzor is a nationally ranked wheelchair tennis player and a professor at Campbell University.
National Center on physical Activity and Disability — http://www.ncpad.org/
US Tennis Association — http://www.usta.com/
US professional Tennis Association — http://www.uspta.com/
International Tennis Federation — www.itftennis.com/wheelchair
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