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Pre- and post-impact muscle activation in the tennis volley: effects of ball speed, ball size and side of the body
  1. John W Chow1,
  2. Duane V Knudson3,
  3. Mark D Tillman2,
  4. Damon P S Andrew4
  1. 1
    Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery, Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, Mississipi, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
  3. 3
    Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Chico, California, USA
  4. 4
    Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
  1. John W Chow, 1350 East Woodrow Wilson Drive, Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, MS 39216, USA; jchow{at}


Aim: To examine the pre- and post-impact activation of five upper extremity muscles in the tennis volley across conditions of ball speed, ball type and side of the body.

Methods: A repeated measures design in a biomechanics laboratory setting was used. A total of 24 recreational tennis players (mean (SD) age 24 (5) years, height 176 (10) cm, mass 76 (13) kg) were recruited from a university. Participants performed tennis volleys under 18 ball conditions: three ball speeds (slow, medium and fast), with three ball types (two oversize and one regular size) each from two sides (forehand and backhand). Average normalised electromyographic levels of the flexor carpi radialis, extensor carpi radialis, triceps brachii, anterior/middle deltoid and posterior/middle deltoid of the hitting arm during pre- and post-impact phases (200 ms before and after ball–racquet impact, respectively) were assessed.

Results: For the pre-impact phase, a significant muscle and side interaction (p<0.001) and significant main effects for speed (p = 0.002) and muscle (p<0.001) were observed. For the post-impact phase, significant interactions were observed for ball type and side (p = 0.002), ball speed and side (p = 0.011) and muscle and side (p = 0.001), as well significant main effects for muscle (p<0.001), speed (p = 0.035) and side (p<0.001).

Conclusion: Oversize tennis balls do not significantly increase upper extremity muscle activation compared to regular size balls during a tennis volley. The highest post-impact activation was observed in the ECR indicating a vigorous wrist stabilisation role that could irritate players with lateral epicondylalgia.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Abbreviations:
    anterior/middle deltoid
    extensor carpi radialis
    flexor carpi radialis
    lateral epicondylalgia
    National Tennis Rating Program
    posterior/middle deltoid
    triceps brachii