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Center for Sustainability
About 300 million tennis balls are produced every year, which can mean over 18,000 tons of landfill waste if they’re not recycled or reused. Luckily, the SCU Tennis teams have collaborated with Janice Demonsi, the Director of Campus Recreation, and Kristin Kusanovich, a Senior Lecturer in the Theater and Dance Department, and found a creative use for these “spent” balls. Because Tennis players can’t use the balls after they become too worn, they donate them to Campus Recreation for use in their summer camps. After getting lots of play at camp, the balls aren’t good for any tennis game but are still perfectly usable as a tool for performers trained in "the tennis ball massage." According to Professor Kusanovich, "this inexpensive form of physical therapy for self is one of the best injury prevention regimes I know. It requires teaching my students where specific pressure points are along the back side of the body and feet that, with a variety of timed movements done at correct angles to gravity, will release tension and relieve overworked muscles and tendons. Do not try this at home!"
Studies have found that many dancers have injury rates comparable to those of contact sports like football and wrestling, possibly due to the fact that dance engages every muscle, bone, and joint in the body in ways that you normally don’t in everyday life. Also, it is often a high impact exercise in terms of the thousands of “landings” performed as dancers run, leap, twirl, jump, roll and otherwise catapult themselves through space. In order to help make dancers’ careers more sustainable, an injury prevention massage was developed using tennis balls so dancers in Los Angeles, typically without insurance or good livelihoods, could improve their odds of staying injury and pain free. Massaging particular pressurepoints with the balls before being active allows dancers to lessen their chances of becoming seriously injured and creates relaxation that improves flexibility and extensions. As brand new tennis balls are not ideal for this very specific injury prevention regime, Dance majors are very grateful to Campus Recreation and Athletics for their small gesture.
This innovative partnership contributes to a more sustainable SCU by diverting the otherwise unusable tennis balls from the landfill and instead reusing them. It prevents dancers from having to pay as much for physical therapy or massages which are necessary in their profession. What’s more, it allows dancers to have a more sustainable career, where the threat of career-shortening injury is diminished.
Contributed by Lauren Moore ‘17, Sustainability Intern for Communication