Gordon Mackay: Heroic duo John Isner and Nicolas Mahut now face injury risks
THE match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut was like reality television in terms of sports physiology.
Although it is an intensive sport, you could not regard tennis as an ultra-endurance competition. But this match took place in a different realm.
Understandably, it has caused people to discuss possible changes to the game. The human body does not adapt quickly to such sudden changes in activity.
Even for spectators on Court 18, the conditions were difficult on Wednesday. The temperature was high, and there was only a light breeze.
Despite taking on litres and litres, the players sustained a staggering amount of fluid loss. They were drinking as much as they could, but the conditions made it even more difficult to stay hydrated – apparently, there were very few toilet breaks throughout Wednesday's play.
The risk of dehydration was high, along with the likes of hyperthermia and kidney damage. If the game was taking place in somewhere like Dubai, it would have been even more dangerous.
Having played for so long, the two men were also at risk of tissue injury. Muscles store a kind of elastic energy, but when that is depleted, the body is less able to absorb shock impacts. For someone like John Isner, who is 6ft 9in, it is even more difficult, having to lug that frame around the court.
Mentally, too, the match will have taken its toll. Athletes who run long endurance races tend to describe not the physical pain they go through, but the mental process.
They go into an almost trance-like state and, for as long as six months to a year, they don't run with the same dynamism. It's almost a subtle a form of fatigue syndrome where you can't get into a groove.
The way both players recommenced the game so nimbly yesterday is testament to their fitness levels. But I would not be surprised if one or both of them suffered some sort of injury or persistent problem over the next six months.
When you are subjected to that level of fatigue, where you are unable even to pick up your racquet from the ground, the risks are great. You can develop shoulder problems, tendonitis, and recurrent knee problems, all of which can be devastating.
Even if both these players had a clean bill of fitness before the match, it has left them more prone to suffering soft tissue or joint injuries.
• Gordon Mackay is one of Scotland's leading sports surgeons and honorary professor at Stirling University's department of sports studies.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west