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The definitive guide to racket stiffness - and how it links to tennis elbow

Posted on August 08 2019

The definitive guide to racket stiffness - and how it links to tennis elbow

Ok, let's start with a super brief summary of Tennis elbow - It's a condition where the outer part of the elbow becomes sore at the lateral epicondyle (tendons on the outside of the elbow). The root cause is that the muscles and tendons of the forearm become damaged from overuse of the same motion.

Now how can a racket choice provide relief from what is essentially a repetitive strain injury?

Tennis is an ever increasingly physical sport, and as the games developed so too has technology. Rackets have become lighter to deal with demands of the player needing high racket speeds to generate heavy topspin. Now the trend has been that as weight has come down on rackets their stiffness has increased. This can be simplified to the simple notion that Increasing a rackets stiffness also allows lighter rackets to stay powerful, this is because a stiffer racquet will not bend as much as a more flexible one, when a racket flexes more it loses energy because the frame does not snap back as quickly. this increased stiffness will create more shock and force being exerted on a player’s arm, leading to tennis elbow flaring up.

Now there is a lot of advice out there about how rackets weight affect tennis elbow. I've heard people say go as heavy as you can and others saying go lighter when trying to give advice on tennis elbow. The real key behind tennis elbow is not weight however, the key question...

WHAT IS THE RA RATING OF THE RACKET?

 RA rating is available on any product specifications of any new racket here at All Things Tennis. Let me show you how some of the popular rackets on the market can be the same weight, the same head size, but a vastly different stiffness through a comparison.

Babolat Pure Drive 300 grams - RA Rating - 72

Head Graphene 360 Speed MP 300 grams - RA Rating - 63

Wilson Clash 100 - 300 grams - RA Rating - 55

 

Brand comparison -

Now different brands have their own USP, Babolat rackets are hugely popular due to their rackets ability to create spin and huge levels of power, perfect for the modern aggressive baseliners whose grips may be more western for example. Their rackets usually come along with a higher RA rating, as this powerful feel is achieved by increased stiffness.

 Head in comparison have direct competitors to Babolats Pure Aero and Drive range. Their Speed, Extreme, and Radical are all 63 RA, which maintains a more flexible feel and protects against Tennis Elbow. They also have developed the new Gravity range including the Graphene 360 + technology where Graphene fibres have been spiralled in order to allow the racket to flex more on impact and increase the sweetspot

 Yonex are comparable to HEAD in terms of RA their Ezone 98 used by Nick Krygios is also at 63 RA, their VCORES can go up to high 60’s but they do utilise Quake Shut gel in their rackets that helps alleviate the stress from the additional stiffness

 Wilson is very much the pioneer at the moment in terms of producing rackets with a LOW RA rating. The Clash 100 comes in at 55 RA on a Babolat RDC machine. This gives the racket a very flexible feel and is perfect for those who want a racket around the popular 300 gram mark that is great for those with Tennis Elbow!

 Be sure to check out our upcoming string blog, on how to pick the right string set up for you and which ones are perfect for tennis elbow sufferers!

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