Some tennis players and specialists are wary of poly tennis strings. There are articles and opinions that poly strings are injurious to junior arms, and strings’ manufacturers advise lower tensions.
It is always more useful to get independence expert’s opinion on this topic. I asked our expert Bruce Levine about his opinion regarding poly tennis strings and how to prevent injures of junior tennis players.
Strings today have become as important as the racquet itself to the point that they have taken the spotlight in the industry.
The big attention has been directed at the ever changing poly strings. They have gone from being just round and harsh poly to becoming softer and more forgiving and having “sides” or “edges” to better grab the ball.
The reason the professional players like the poly string so much is that it is basically “dead”. To make that easier to understand; they are very unlively. This allows a player to swing with a lot of speed and energy and the ball won’t travel as far nor as wildly leading to greater control and increased power and spin. The thing that makes the poly great for professionals is the same thing that will hurt junior players arms; the dead and lack of life in the string.
Because the poly is a “dead” material, it provides little energy that is returned to the ball. The second piece about poly is that it is very unforgiving; meaning that if you hit the ball off center or away from the sweet spot, you get a harsh message in your arm that you missed in the form of a jolt or more simply put a shock. If the string were soft and forgiving, you would still receive the same message but in a kinder, gentler manner; like a “love tap”.
Because of the jolt that you receive, it has been recommended that players string down at lower tensions to minimize the trauma that can be caused by the poly and cushion the “blow”. As this pertains to juniors; it is important to protect their arms and give their bodies and musculature a chance to develop before consistent and persistent trauma is applied. Damage that can be done could cause many different maladies including tennis elbow and these injuries could be chronic keeping them out of tennis for long periods of time if not permanently.
I would recommend that juniors play with multi-filament strings that offer some “compassion” for their arms and give them some touch and feel for the ball on their strings. This will also help them developmentally as players so that they can learn about different parts of the game and develop better skills. As players mature and age up into the 16’s and 18’s poly may be an option but better would be a co-poly which is kinder and gentler than the pure poly but, still has many of the traits of the poly. I would also suggest strongly that a blend of strings (very common today) be used by juniors. An example of this would be using poly in the main strings and a good multi-filament in the crosses.