It surprises me every time when a customer comes to me and ask whether they should use a dampener in their racket. While it is a good question, it seems like they already know the outcome of what I’m about to say and assume they should probably play with a racket dampener. Well, wait a minute! No, or yes, but in any case, don’t be so sure until you have read this article and then decide for yourself!
What does a racket dampener do?
As the name of course implies, the intention of placing a racket dampener is to dampen the vibrations of your racket strings. However, vibrations occur in the frame too, all the way down to your arm.
Because the vibrations also create the famous “ping” of your stringbed, using a vibration dampener in your racket will also result in a lower “ping”, depending on the size, material and placement of your racket dampener.
Are racket dampeners good?
Because vibrations radiate throughout your racket frame (in 365 degrees), using a dampener technically dampens only a small bit of the vibrations. While this may definitely allow for a bit of a ‘smoother’ touch, the effect that we’ve attributed to using a dampener is a bit overdone in my opinion.
First, let’s touch on the main reason for installing the dampener and that is to allow for a softer feel of the frame, while swinging away. It is good to mention in this context that frames all have different stiffness ratings (RA-values) and that comparing these values upon buying a frame, will give you the best option to choose a smoother swing. Just like choosing a different choose for your ski’s or snowboard (and comparing stiffness values), you should pay attention to a racket’s flex.
Sometimes manufacturers even have built-in dampening features to prevent as much vibrations reaching your handle and arm as possible. Especially during recent years as the tennis game has evolved in a much more power driven game, this has been the case.
In addition, one of the most important factors that influence your stringbed stiffness is of course the stiffness of your strings. So choosing a more flexible string may be a way better (and logical) solution to having less vibrations, or feeling less vibrations, on impact.
Does using a racket dampener prevent tennis elbow?
No, there is (too) little evidence to support that using a racket dampeners prevents a tennis elbow.
Do tennis pros use dampeners?
Yes, there are actually quite a few tennis pro’s that use a dampener, although many use a different form of dampener. The most known player with a dampener in his racket must be Rafael Nadal. He plays with a a small, ‘button’ type, Babolat dampener.
Other pro’s may use longer form dampeners that actually do dampen quite a bit more of the main, center strings. A regularly seen example is pro’s using a quick and easy fix to dampen their strings by weaving a rubber band through the strings and tying them up. Andy Roddick used to do this in his Babolat Pure Drive.
Where do you place a vibration dampener?
According to ITF rules, players can place vibration dampeners anywhere outside the pattern of the cross strings. This means that they can be placed anywhere on the outer edges of the stringbed (left, right, bottom and/or top). Normally you will see them placed at the bottom of the racket where the center main strings and first cross string meet. While there is no strict limit on how many dampeners you can install, many players will just use one since there is little to no affect on using multiple dampeners (source: tennisexpress.com)
Types of vibration dampeners
You can buy two types of vibration dampeners. One is shaped like a “button” you’d find on a shirt, fully made out of rubber. These are placed pretty easily but only cover about two main, center strings. The effect of these button type dampeners is therefore also less.
The other main type is the “band” type dampener, either in the form of a prefabricated rubber that easily allows the main strings to be covered by the dampener or in the form of an elastic band (either an “wormlike” solid band or an postal elastic band). Because they are woven through the main strings and normally cover more than two main strings, the effect of these bands are a bit greater than of a button dampener. On the downside, they are a bit more difficult to install.
Conclusion: should I use a vibration dampener?
Now that you have all the information, you should be just really test some dampeners and see if it is something that fits your game, or better yet, your ears… As mentioned in this article, the actual dampening effects on vibrations through the use of a dampener in your racket actually is quite small, but a dampener can definitely take the pitch out of your “ping”. If that’s something you’d be interested in, go for it. If not, you are probably better of just by taking a bigger interest in your string setup.
What about your experience? Do you personally play with a vibration dampener? And why? Did I miss anything in this article? Please let me know down in the comment section.