Women shoulder greater injury burden at Australian Open

As tennis demands more from its players, an Australian Catholic University study has revealed it is women who pay a greater physical toll at the Australian Open.

The research, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, revealed the punishing nature of professional tennis, particularly for women who sustained 35 per cent more injuries than their male counterparts.

Data collected at the Australian Open from 2011 to 2016 found women sustained 201.7 injuries per 10,000 game exposures (games) at the Grand Slam tournament.

In five of the six years examined, women called for more medical consultations than their male counterparts, according to the research paper, conducted in a collaboration between Tennis Australia and ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences.

The results of the study by ACU PhD candidate Danielle Gescheit, who was supported by a panel of researchers including primary supervisor Associate Professor Stuart Cormack, highlighted the importance of a greater gender-specific understanding of tennis’s heavy physical demands.

“While women play best-of-three-set matches at Grand Slams, (as opposed to best-of-five-sets for men), the within-point demands are generally greater for women players,” Ms Gescheit said. “The rallies are longer, and women are less likely to rely on a big serve to gain cheap points.

“Women are comparatively slower but over the past 20 years ball speed has gone through the roof based on advancements in racquet and string technology. Therefore, women find themselves in compromising positions more often.”

Former world No.1 Andy Murray has flagged his injury-forced retirement and a shoulder problem forced Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis out of this month’s event.

Former Australian Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta, who has been affected by foot and hip injuries, spoke of the injury toll after her retirement from the 2018 Brisbane International.

“Hips definitely take a beating, but so do knees, so do shoulders, so do ankles, wrists. Take your pick,” she said.

The study also highlighted the most common injuries. Women more commonly injured their shoulder, foot, wrist and knee. Knee, ankle and thigh were the most prevalent injuries to males.

Its results were analysed from 1170 unique injuries across the men’s and women’s qualifying and main draw singles, doubles and mixed doubles in these events across the six years.

Ms Gescheit said the findings would assist Australian Open organisers in the allocation of treatment resources and providing insight to players and their support staff regarding targeted injury prevention strategies.

“It’s a unique sport,” she said. “Players play between 22 and 25 tournaments a year, there’s high travel demands and during an event you don’t know the duration of your match, what time it will be played and whether you’ll be required to play again.

“It’s very challenging to plan training blocks. In footy and other sports, you know well in advance where, when and how long the games and season are.”

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