19 September 2022 / 3-Min Read / Translate↗
Here I sit, with two metal hips, arthritis in my spine, shoulders and hands, three fused vertebrae, radiculopathy in my leg and shoulder/arm, plus a plethora of pains in joints and muscles, typing that playing squash in the long-term is fine. How can I reconcile my current physical condition with the view that squash is good for you? Well the simple answer is I don’t believe my current situation is caused by squash.
So let me clarify one thing, almost any sport or activity taken to excess is bad for your body. In the past, almost all professional sport men and women, suffered from physical issues after they retired. Some more than others due to the nature of their sport, but most had some limitation. But you are not a professional, so that should help, right? Yes and No.
Sports and exercise physiologists, trainers, physiotherapists and other support staff have much more knowledge about what is good and bad for the body. We shudder at some of the exercises that were prescribed by trainers even back in the 1990s. Training techniques have evolved with safety in mind. Equipment has been developed to reduce the chance of injury and improve performance. A great example is the foam roller. When used correctly, and yes it can be used incorrectly and cause problems, especially in the back area, can have a dramatic effective on your recovery time after hard training sessions or matches.
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Another factor that has changed, is the amount of time players spend training on court and off court. In the past, most training was on court and by “on court”, I don’t mean just hitting the ball, I means court sprints (which I personally believe to be terrible) and ghosting etc. Nowadays, more training is performed in gyms and other locations. You body gets a chance to rest from the high-impact work on squash courts.
Also, bear in mind, that squash courts should have sprung floors – that means that the wood moves a little when you move about on it. It’s not just wood on concrete, which is terrible for your joints.
Another difference between pros and amateurs is their heat ups and cool downs. You could argue that a pro has more time for these sorts of things, but I would counter argue that when it comes to your body there is no excuse for not taking care of it. If you have enough time to play squash, you have enough time to heat up and cool down properly. I can’t stress how important both of these aspects are.
If you look around and see older players with physical problems, which they claim were caused by squash, remember that what they did and what you do should be very different. If you want to play lots of squash, then you should be doing other work to ensure that you stay healthy and active.
I believe that a moderate amount of squash, say 3 times per week, along with some strengthening and flexibility sessions will lead to a long and safe playing lifestyle. But as I said at the beginning, if you train very hard and a lot, you will almost certainly suffer for it later in life, irrespective of how safe your training is or what sport you do.
Playing squash for fun and recreation is a great thing to do. Keeping your body strong through moderate weight training, and keeping your body flexible through specific stretching sessions (not heat ups and or cool downs) should be seen as the norm, not the exception.
Heat up and cool down properly, treat injuries with care, for example don't play when injured and go to see specialists, not just think a few days rest will be okay. Learn to use foam rollers, resistance bands, Swiss balls etc. These pieces of equipment are not expensive and are great for maintaining fitness and health.
Just like cars and other mechanical equipment; if you look after it properly and use it sensibly, it will last a long time, and your body is no different. It's your responsibility to take care of your body.