Science and the major racket sports: a review

J Sports Sci. 2003 Sep;21(9):707-32. doi: 10.1080/0264041031000140275.


The major racket sports include badminton, squash, table tennis and tennis. The growth of sports science and the commercialization of racket sports in recent years have focused attention on improved performance and this has led to a more detailed study and understanding of all aspects of racket sports. The aim here, therefore, is to review recent developments of the application of science to racket sports. The scientific disciplines of sports physiology and nutrition, notational analysis, sports biomechanics, sports medicine, sports engineering, sports psychology and motor skills are briefly considered in turn. It is evident from these reviews that a great deal of scientific endeavour has been applied to racket sports, but this is variable across both the racket sports and the scientific disciplines. A scientific approach has helped to: implement training programmes to improve players' fitness; guide players in nutritional and psychological preparation for play; inform players of the strategy and tactics used by themselves and their opponents; provide insight into the technical performance of skills; understand the effect of equipment on play; and accelerate the recovery from racket-arm injuries. Racket sports have also posed a unique challenge to scientists and have provided vehicles for developing scientific methodology. Racket sports provide a good model for investigating the interplay between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism and the effect of nutrition, heat and fatigue on performance. They have driven the development of mathematical solutions for multi-segment interactions within the racket arm during the performance of shots, which have contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms of both performance and injury. They have provided a unique challenge to sports engineers in relation to equipment performance and interaction with the player. Racket sports have encouraged developments in notational analysis both in terms of analytical procedures and the conceptualization of strategy and tactics. Racket sports have provided a vehicle for investigating fast interceptive actions, hand-eye coordination and perception-action coupling in the field of motor control. In conclusion, science has contributed considerably to our knowledge and understanding of racket sports, and racket sports have contributed to science by providing unique challenges to researchers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Equipment Design
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology
  • Nutritional Sciences / education
  • Nutritional Sciences / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / psychology
  • Racquet Sports / physiology*
  • Racquet Sports / psychology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis