USTA Study of Junior Injuries Produces Troubling Numbers; Paul Roetert Leaving USTA; Delic Chats at Illinois
In an article today for Foxsports.com, Richard Evans writes of a study on junior injuries conducted from 2007-2008 by the USTA, which was recently presented at a coaches meeting at the Boca Raton Training Center. The numbers are not encouraging. Of the 861 players surveyed, 41 percent reported an injury, with 13 percent reporting two or more injuries. Although the article doesn't address this specifically, I'm assuming these are injuries that prevent a player from competing.
National coach Tom Gullikson is quoted as saying "it's worse than we expected," and those expectations were probably pretty low to begin with if you're around junior tennis players as much as someone like he is.
Evans explores three possible reasons for all the injuries: strings (the relatively new strings that allow for extended rallies), surface (the pounding that hard courts inflict on the body) and stress (pressure and expectations). There is a quote from Patrick McEnroe about the possibility of the Orange Bowl returning to clay, the surface that it was played on before it moved to Key Biscayne from Flamingo Park.
It would be extremely interesting to compare the injuries of junior players in this country with a country that has the majority of its training and tournaments primarily on clay to see how much of a factor this might be. (It may be possible to do this by just comparing the Southern California juniors with the Florida juniors, or at least the 12 and unders, as those in Florida do much of their training on clay.) If it's demonstrated that clay training does result in fewer injuries, it would add another plus to that side of the surface ledger.
Evans goes on to praise the dedication and attitude of the national coaching staff (although I believe he's mistaken in including Rodney Harmon, the former head of men's tennis among them) and the effort to address this important issue. As anyone who has followed tennis since the U.S. Open knows, it's a problem at the very highest level of the game too.
I don't believe there's been an official release, but Paul Roetert, the former Managing Director of Player Development and current Managing Director of Coaching Education and Sport Science, will be leaving the USTA at the end of the year. Roetert has also served as the tournament director of the US Open Junior Championships.
Amer Delic, the 2003 NCAA singles champion while at Illinois, is recovering from a knee injury and while unable to play, he is back in Champaign, finishing his degree. He did a chat today on the Fighting Illini website, answering questions about his decision to turn pro, breaking racquets, his favorite cities and when he might be back on the tour.