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Part 2 – Most used muscles in table tennis

Common Table Tennis Injuries & How To Prevent.

Part 2 – Most used muscles in table tennis.

This is the research of table tennis injury, including 4 parts.


Most used muscles in table tennis

In order to understand which muscles group is overused during the table tennis strokes, you need to understand the biomechanics in table tennis.

Similar to other racket sports (tennis, golf, squash), table tennis includes different types of strokes and services. Each movement includes different biomechanical factors that could affect injuries. In the 10 most popular strokes, the forehand topspin and forehand smash are the movements that consume the most energy and require a lot of muscle to be used.

Common table tennis Injury & how to prevent (Part 2)

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3 stroke phases

The table tennis strokes are characterized by three phases of different movements:

5 worst injuries in table tennis
5 worst injuries in table tennis

6 energy link in table tennis

In this process, musculoskeletal joints such as the knee, shoulder, and elbow serve as links in the kinetic chain by generating and transmitting energy to the next link. Here is the list of energy link:

  1. Ankle (Weak): The first link to transfer the “power from the ground”
  2. Knee (Medium): The intermediate link between the ground and the hips
  3. Trunk (Strong): Hip and waist – Very strong core then fewer injury possibilities
  4. Shoulder (Strong): Link between the core and the rotation axes
  5. Elbow (Medium): Link between the core and the forearm
  6. Wrist (Weak): Weak link but suffer the highest velocity

So you can see that link #1, and link #6 are very important but they are weak. Ankle and the Wrist are the first and last links in the procedure. But unfortunately, the ankle and wrist are very weak. While the Trunk (hip and waist) is a very strong link. The ankle will absorb the “power from the ground”, and the wrist will transfer this energy to the ball.

 



Ma Long biomechanics - 6 Enery Linking in table tennis
Ma Long biomechanics – 6 Energy Linking in table tennis

The waist is the narrowest part of your torso. While the hip is the widest part of your buttock. Both the waist and hip are very important in table tennis. They generate a lot of power for your strokes.

So weak link will be prone more to injury in table tennis. Old players (veteran, senior) will suffer more ankle and knee injury. And junior players will suffer more to wrist, elbow and shoulder injury (based on my coaching experiences).

During a good stroke, this energy cycle (from the ground to the ball) will make the ball spin. Don’t just impact the ball with only your racket, but think about this “linking concept”. By thinking about this, you can reduce the injury possibility.

Use all of the links to reduce injury

In a single table tennis match, this linking cycle is repeated many times and greatly depends on the strength, stamina, flexibility, and technique of an athlete. If energy transfer in articulation is not coordinated effectively, the following joints can easily become overloaded.

By understanding the “energy linking” concept in table tennis, you can greatly reduce the injury and pain during your intense training. That’s why biomechanical is very important in table tennis. I want to explain this concept to every high-leveled players and new players. High-level players and coaches can use it to improve their performance. While new players can use it to have a proper technique and stroke mechanism. All players should know this for your safety.

 

muscle strain due to overuse in table tennis
muscle strain due to overuse in table tennis

I’ve observed that there is a huge difference between experienced table tennis players and amateur players. Experienced players prefer using many muscle groups to generate power. Amateur players forget to do adequate knee flexion and hip rotation, so they must use more 25% of shoulder and elbow to generate similar speed and power.

Should and elbow is “overused” 25% in table tennis, if you don’t use the “power from the ground” concept

As I coach, I emphasize on the fluid, the correctness of the stroke for my players. The kinetic connection depends on the level of experience.

 

upper limb biomechanics in table tennis
upper limb biomechanics in table tennis

Advanced table tennis players manipulate the kinetic connection more effectively to reduce the impact forces transmitted to the weak linkings: wrist, ankle.

In turn, beginner or recreational table tennis players often use excessive and uncoordinated force in the absence of an effective technique, which does not result in increased ball speed and spin. You need to learn optimal technique which helps enormously to maximize the prevention of injuries and also increase the quality of your shots.


Injuries in Racket Sports

If you are a coach, you need to understand what factors have to be involved in an injury-prevention strategy for your players. With the new plastic ball, and the modern competitive sport (ITTF’s new policy), the potential risk of injuries in table tennis increase. Injuries mainly involve muscle tissue; they are followed by injuries to the joints and tendons.

injury in racket sports
injury in racket sports

This could be due to increasing participation, intensity, demands and longer training periods. Although table tennis is one of the least risky sports in racket sports, there is a common problem of injury between table tennis, tennis and badminton. There is no difference between male and female players. Compared to other racket sports, table tennis players suffer fewer injuries. (Good news for us)

 

Injury location in table tennis, tennis and badminton
Injury location in table tennis, tennis, and badminton (M. Kondric et al. 2011)

You can see that, for both table tennis, badminton and tennis, there are 3 most risky parts: shoulder, spine, and ankle.

The most at-risk parties are the table tennis shoulder (20.05%) and the tennis ankle (20.00%). The second most at-risk body parties are the spine and hips (15.79% each) in table tennis and spine (15.38%), followed by wrist and shoulder (13.85% each) in tennis. Other parts of the body are slightly less prone to injury.

With the introduction of a bigger ball, these strokes have become even more abrupt, KONDRIC M. (2011)

In my coaching experiences, most of these injuries come from the “sudden movements”. In table tennis, no swing phase at the end of the table tennis stroke (read above about the 3 phases in a table tennis stroke) could increase the injury risk.

golfer elbow problem
golfer elbow problem

Through the swing we provide an optimal way to muscles and adequate angle of the involved joints (the shoulder,
elbow and wrist).

That’s very important that you should learn the correct way to swing. It’s yin-pai.

Table tennis has a little higher ankle injury. Due to the fast lateral movements in table tennis, and complete movements in other racket sports, the integrity of the foot is essential because the support of the shoe and the orthoses cannot be used to modify the biomechanics of the foot.

 

Injuries distributionTable Tennis (%)*Tennis (%)Badminton
(%)
Squash (%)
lower limb3542.282.968
Upper leg22.3 2.85
Knee2119.511.524
Lower leg1015.814.35
Ankle5047.244.226
Foot613.710.18
Distribution of racket sport injuries

 

A high percentage of injuries to the ankle and foot joints (23.69% overall) indicates that players should pay more attention to choosing appropriate footwear to avoid these injuries.


Next Chapter

Read the chapter 3 here.



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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

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