You might think that something is wrong with your tennis racket or it was strung incorrectly because of the “ping” sound you hear every time you hit the ball. It’s not the racket or the string job; it’s simply the strings vibrating. If this sound drives you crazy, there’s a simple fix -- a shock absorber also called a vibration dampener. The use of these devices is not just for recreational tennis players and using one is a personal choice. Even top women tennis professionals feel as if they play better with one in place.
About Shock Absorbers
Shock absorbers or vibration dampeners are relatively inexpensive and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes -- you can even have them custom made with a special logo or design. Some look like little rubber doughnuts that fit between two strings, and others are long and worm-like. Worm-like dampeners tend to stay in your strings better because they have hooks or some other attachment design to hook on to the strings. Dampeners are made of several materials including solid silicone, gel-filled silicon, flexible PVC and foam. Of course, there's always the homemade standby and the personal favorite of Andre Agassi -- the rubber band, which is just as effective.
Many players believe that shock absorbers or dampeners eliminate all racket vibrations and prevent these vibrations from traveling to your arm, potentially causing joint injuries. Studies show that these devices do a pretty good job of dampening string vibrations, but they do essentially nothing to the vibrations of the racket's frame, as reported by tennis researcher Howard Brody, Ph.D, on the website of the United States Tennis Association. Shock absorbers and dampeners are most effective in changing the sound you hear when the ball contacts the strings -- you'll hear a thud instead of a ping. There's no medical reason for using a dampener, according to Brody. It's a myth that these devices prevent tennis elbow.
The official rules of tennis allow players to use shock absorbers or vibration dampeners as long as they are installed properly. These devices must be placed above the top cross string or below the bottom cross string, according to International Tennis Federation rules. They are allowed to touch the outside of these strings, but are not allowed on the interior portion of the string bed -- below the top cross or above the bottom cross.
Although it's not against the rules, more than one dampener can be installed, but it's not necessary. One dampener is all you need to sufficiently eliminate string vibrations, according to Brody. If you use a doughnut-shaped dampener, the best place to install it is between the two center main or long strings and either above the top cross or below the bottom cross string. To install a worm-like dampener, insert it halfway between the two center main strings and weave each end out toward the sides, under and over the strings for the length of the dampener. Then secure each end around a string. If you use a rubber band, wrap it around the center two main strings and tie a secure knot.