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How to play tennis with a prosthetic arm

This is your go-to guide on how to play tennis with a prosthetic arm. We'll touch on the following:

  1. Do I need to use a prosthetic arm to play tennis?

  2. Can I hold a tennis ball with a prosthetic arm?

  3. What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist me with tennis?

  4. Can I play tennis with a myoelectric prosthetic arm?

  5. Is it easy to play tennis with a prosthetic arm?

  6. Why might someone think playing tennis with a prosthetic arm is difficult?

  7. Koalaa’s Approach to playing tennis with a prosthetic arm

  8. User Stories - Joanie

Tennis is an awesome sport that can be enjoyed by anyone. Whether you're a seasoned tennis player or a newbie looking to take up the sport, if you have a limb difference and are looking for a prosthetic arm to assist you, this article has all the information you need!


We'll explore how to play tennis with a prosthetic arm, offering valuable tips and advice to help you get the most out of your tennis experience. So, grab your racket, put on your tennis shoes, and let's dive into the exciting world of prosthetics.

 

Do I need to use a prosthetic arm to play tennis?


The first question you might have is “do I even need to use a prosthetic arm?” and the answer is quite simple, no!


Many people with limb differences choose to play tennis using their hands or arms without the use of a prosthetic or assistive device. A prosthetic arm is an assistive tool which can provide support and assistance for individuals with upper limb differences for those who decide they need extra support whilst playing tennis.


The choice to use a prosthetic for tennis is entirely based on the individual's comfort, needs, and preferences. The goal is to empower everyone to engage in physical activities and give people the choice and access to try prosthetics, if they want to!

 

Can I hold a tennis ball with a prosthetic arm?

tennis with a limb difference

There are many different types of prosthetic arms so the answer to this will depend on the design of the prosthetic arm you are considering.


Some passive prosthetic arms have no functional movement meaning the fingers may not be able to grip the ball however other passive prosthetics may have fingers which can be manipulated to move around and grip the ball.


Some bionic prosthetic arms are able to hold a tennis ball. The bionic prosthetic arm operates by using signals from your muscles to prompt the prosthetic hand to open and close around objects, such as a tennis ball!


At Koalaa we have a prosthetic tool available which is specifically designed to hold a tennis ball. It is a soft, curved tool designed to scoop up a tennis ball with ease and launch it into the sky without the need to use your other hand (if applicable!).


So the answer is yes, there are prosthetics available which can hold a tennis ball!

 

What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist me with tennis?


Before you step onto the tennis court, it's important to ensure that your prosthetic arm is well-suited for the sport. Consult with your prosthetist to discuss your tennis ambitions and get recommendations for the right prosthetic arm. Here are some tools and prosthetics that are available for you to consider:


Prosthetic Arm Attachments: Prosthetic arm attachments specifically designed for tennis can provide a secure grip on the racket or around the ball. These attachments come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different playing styles. They usually just attach on and off of the end of the prosthetic arm.


At Koalaa we have designed a tennis tool which can either attach to the end of our prosthetic arm or attach directly onto your limb. Our tool, which has been named “The Joanie” after the girl who inspired its design, is a soft, curved tool designed to scoop up a tennis ball with ease to be able to serve it whilst holding the racket in your other hand.


Customised Tennis Rackets: Custom-made tennis rackets can be made to your specific needs. Adjustments may include grip size, weight distribution, and racket head size to maximise your control and power.


Adaptive Grips: Specialised grips and overgrips can be added to the tennis racket to improve grip and comfort. These grips are designed to be easily attachable and removable, allowing you to customise your racket handle according to your preferences.


Adaptive Tennis Ball Machines: Some tennis ball machines are designed to provide accessibility for players who may require assistance. These machines can be adjusted to deliver balls at various speeds and angles, allowing players to practise and improve their skills independently without needing to throw the ball.


Wheelchair Tennis Equipment: For individuals with lower limb differences, wheelchair tennis is a popular option. Specialised sports wheelchairs with adjustable features, such as tilt and camber, are available to optimise movement on the tennis court.


Adaptive Tennis Programs: Your local tennis organisation or club might offer an adaptive tennis program or coaching to assist you with any specific needs you might have. These programs provide a supportive community.


Online Resources: Online platforms and communities offer a wealth of information, including tutorials, forums, and videos, where players with limb differences can learn from others and share their experiences. To find these communities, search for terms and hashtags such as “adaptive tennis”.


If you think a prosthetic arm or adaptive tools might be beneficial to you for playing tennis, you can reach out to our team here at Koalaa (hi@yourkoalaa.com).


You could also contact an adaptive tennis coach, or physical therapist to determine the most suitable adaptive tools and equipment based on your specific needs and playing style.

 

Can I play tennis with a myoelectric prosthetic arm?

myoelectric arm for tennis

Myoelectric prosthetic arms are powered by electrical signals generated by the user's muscles in their limb, which are then translated into specific movements of the prosthetic arm.


One thing to check with your prosthetist before getting your myoelectric prosthetic is what activities you’ll be able to get involved with whilst wearing your prosthetic arm.


The expensive materials used to make myoelectric prosthetic arms might be easily broken in physical activities so it’s important to evaluate the risks before participating!

 

Would it be easy for me to play tennis with a prosthetic arm?


Playing tennis with a prosthetic arm, just the same as without one, requires determination!


The level of ease or difficulty can vary person to person due to several factors, including the type of prosthetic arm, the individual's previous experience with prosthetics. At Koalaa we designed our tennis tool with our users in mind to make it as comfortable as possible and easy for them to use.


Just like playing any sport, playing tennis with a prosthetic arm will require practice and patience. You may need to adjust your technique once you start to learn what feels right for you and practice navigating the ball with the racket. With time and perseverance, it gets easier.


It’s important to not give up after the first few times of trying if you feel like you can’t get the hang of it. Some people might find the transition intuitive and seamless, while others may require more time to master their technique. What remains constant is the sense of accomplishment and the joy once you crack it!

 

Why might other people think playing tennis with a prosthetic arm is difficult?


Some people in society perceive playing tennis with a prosthetic arm as difficult due to a combination of historical norms, limited exposure to prosthetic technology, and negative assumptions about physical differences!


In the past, prosthetics may have been rudimentary and lacked the functionality required for activities such as play tennis. This has led to the idea that prosthetic users might struggle with tasks that involve fine motor skills.


The lack of awareness and representation of prosthetics has also contributed to misconceptions. Limited visibility of individuals successfully using prosthetics for activities like tennis has reinforced the idea that such tasks can be challenging.


These assumptions underestimate the capabilities of modern prosthetic technology, which has advanced significantly!


It's important to challenge these perceptions and embrace a more inclusive perspective. While there may be a learning curve and adjustments involved, individuals who chose to use prosthetic arms can develop remarkable skills using them for tennis.


The narrative is shifting towards empowerment and expanded possibilities, highlighting that playing tennis with a prosthetic arm is not inherently difficult but a skill that can be mastered with the right tools!

 

Koalaa’s approach to playing tennis with a prosthetic arm


prosthetic arm for tennis

Our user-centric approach to design ensures that individuals have the tools available if required to assist with various activities, including playing tennis. Our prosthetics feature a soft, lightweight fabric sleeve that can be paired with different tool attachments, catering to specific tasks.


Our Joanie tool is specifically designed to hold a tennis ball. The Joanie is a soft, curved tool designed to scoop up a tennis ball with ease and to launch it into the sky. Whether you’re serving for fun or competing for the top prize at Wimbledon, you can use the Joanie tool to streamline your serve. Say goodbye to juggling your racket and the ball and focus solely on your game.


By designing tool attachments specifically for sports including tennis, we aim to encourage inclusivity, promote healthy active living and ensure that no one feels limited by the lack of resources out there available to assist them!

 

User Stories - Joanie


How to play tennis with a prosthetic arm

The journey of playing tennis with a prosthetic arm is deeply personal and looks different for each individual. Our tools have assisted many of our community to pick up tennis balls and start serving!


Our tennis tool is inspired and named after the talented and driven, Joanie!


Joanie hopes to be the first Paralympian to do every sport! Joanie joined us as a keen surfer in 2022 and asked us (on live TV!) for a tennis serving tool. Joanie worked with us through every step of the design and we’re honoured to have her name on the newest addition to the Koalaa catalogue.


We chatted to Joanie’s parents and asked them if they’d recommend others giving our tools a try, here’s what they said:


“Do it. It’s brilliant. What we like most about it is that it works! The sleeve is so light and easy and can be donned and doffed very quickly. We’re so glad we came across Koalaa and it’s great to be part of the growing #KoalaaCommunity.”

 

Interested in our tool for playing tennis?


If you want to check out our tennis tool in more detail, click the link below!



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