Avoiding Table Tennis Injuries

table tennis game in progress

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Although many members of the general public may view ping-pong as an unathletic pastime, serious ping-pong players know better. Table tennis is just as much a sport as any other (and even more so than some).

An inescapable part of ping-pong being a serious sport is the potential for injury when you take to the table. Remember, it's hard to improve when you are forced to be a spectator through injury, and insult is added when you are sidelined due to an event that could easily have been avoided. So here's a list of safety tips that will help keep you injury-free and out on the table.

Safety Tips for Table Tennis

  • Make sure you get a proper warm up before starting play. Warming up involves 5-15 minutes of light physical activity to elevate your heart rate and breathing rate, increase your blood flow and make your muscles warmer. Serious athletes may require even more activity to fully get ready for the exertion ahead. Then follow up with some gentle stretching to finish the warm-up. For more information on warming up and stretching I would suggest reading the following two articles:
  • Try not to umpire just before you are about to play since it's easy to cool down and get stiff again. If you must umpire, make sure you wear plenty of layers to keep warm and ask the tournament director for time to get an adequate warm-up before playing your next game.
  • When using more than one ball (for drills etc), don't leave balls under or near your feet, where you might easily stand on them and trip over.
  • If you are assisting in a multiple ball drill by picking up the balls that are rolling around the court, be careful to stay clear of the players doing the drill. Get too close and you might end up getting hit by a bat, or have one of the players tripping over you!
  • Don't walk onto or through other players' courts until you make eye contact with the players involved. A player with his back to you may not even know you are there, and may suddenly move backward during a point, causing a collision with the potential to injure both of you.
  • When playing doubles, keep aware of where your partner is, so that you don't accidentally hit him with your bat, or run into each other without expecting it. Believe me, sooner or later you will run into each other, so at least be prepared so that you can soften the impact.
  • Don't jump or hurdle the barriers between courts. It's very easy to accidentally catch your foot when doing so, and end up tripping over. Plus you often can't see whether any balls are on the other side of the barrier. You don't want to successfully jump the barrier just to land on a ball and fall down!
  • Don't take your water bottle onto the court. It's not legal, to begin with, and it's very easy to spill water without noticing it. There's nothing more guaranteed to cause an injury than suddenly slipping on a patch of water when you are off-balance and reaching for the ball!
  • Speaking of slipping—when changing ends, take a quick look to see that your opponent hasn't left drops of sweat all over the floor. Slipping on a sweaty patch on the floor is another easy way to injure yourself.
  • Be careful around tables—make sure that roller tables have their brakes on, and check all tables to make sure that their bracing struts are in the proper position. Also, be wary about sitting or leaning on tables, since there are many tables that will fold inwards if weight is placed on the table near the net.
  • Some tables are easier to set up than others, and some tables really require two people to set up safely. It's easier than you think to accidentally pull a heavy table over on yourself when trying to set it up. Get a friend to help when necessary.
  • Don't use a cracked blade—you never know when it might finally snap and have the paddle head go flying away, possibly to hit someone else!
  • On the same theme—don't ever throw your bat around. While some players will attempt to minimize the danger by throwing it into a courtside barrier to vent their frustrations, it is all too easy to miss the barrier completely in your agitation and end up with your racket flying wildly across the hall endangering others.
  • When you are on the court, show proper courtesy and decorum at all times. Goofing around while others are trying to play matches is a perfect recipe for being in the wrong place at the wrong time without realizing it—and that's how serious injuries can happen.
  • Listen to your body. If you are playing and you get a sharp pain, don't ignore it! As you get older you will no doubt get used to playing with niggling injuries due to wear and tear on your body, but the best way to turn a small injury into a large one is to ignore your body's warning signs and keep on playing when new pain flares up.
  • For those times when you do get injured despite all your best precautions, knowing some basic first aid can help minimize the injury and get you back out on the table as soon as possible. Here's some advice about treating sprains and strains to get you started.