How are racquets speeding up the game and in turn leading to more injuries? What can I recommend for a player concerned about longevity and injury avoidance?
Today's racquets are made using carbon fiber saturated in epoxy. This creates a very stiff racquet which is also very lightweight.
The racquet bends backwards when a ball is hit. The stiffer the frame the less back-bend is created. So far, the ball leaves the strings while the racquet is still backing up. The racquet that backs up the least usually is the most powerful, i.e., less energy is wasted on the backing up of the frame.
The problem is that the things that tend to injure a player's hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders are: stiffness (no shock absorbancy) and lightweight (more shock reaching the player).
Beyond this, the fact that your opponent is also using graphite frames means that the ball you hit is going much faster than they used to with wood racquets or aluminum or fiberglass.
Today's pro tennis is based on how fast a player can hit the ball. For example, the usual serve used to be about 100 m.p.h. with wood, (fastest may have been around 125 m.p.h., but this was not the norm).
Today's racquets hit the serve from 125 m.p.h. to 150 m.p.h. on a regular basis. Del Potro hits his forehands at 110 m.p.h. (try volleying that for a while and you will require a wrist operation sooner rather than later).
I recommend that a player who wants to save his/her arm and body parts (and is not a pro player) should keep some mass in the racquet. Secondly, they should think about a racquet that contains some fiberglass to allow more bending on ball impact. This can add spin and decrease shock levels reaching the player's arm.
I made racquets for Anders Jarryd. Anders used these frames to win at least three of the four Grand Slam doubles tournaments (he was one of the best doubles players in history).
Anders played with a racquet that was 60 percent fiberglass and only 40 percent graphite. Also, this frame had to be 14 ounces unstrung.
He obtained power from the weight increase and obtained spin control due to the pronounced bending of the frame. This added bend caused the balls to remain on the strings for increased time, which allowed the ball to roll more over the stringbed and come off the strings with more spin.
I feel that by imitating the pros with a super-lightweight frame that is also super-stiff, the average younger player or club player is asking for trouble.
The pros have already felt this "trouble" more often than not...
Rich Janes holds over 31 U.S. patents for tennis racket and stringing machine designs, and has worked with Prince, Wilson, Babolat and Penn on research and development of new racket technologies.