With Christmas approaching, I decided it would be a good time – and a good excuse – to buy a new tennis racquet. So I did just that.

Although I’ve been told “you need another one like you need another hole in your head,” I often wonder what is the useful life expectancy of a racquet frame?

And, how many avid tennis players out there are using 5- or 10-year-old, and even older, “sticks,” not knowing the hows, whys, and ways racquets wear out.

It can be hard to imagine that the many “space age” materials that racquets are made of can break down, but they do just that from the moment of their first stringing and subsequent striking or hitting balls, repeated stringing, hitting more balls, and on, and on.

With every hit the frame will bend backward a little to absorb the ball’s impact and energy, then moves that energy forward to propel the ball.

The repetition of this over and over again breaks down the graphite, carbon and resins that make up the majority of the frame’s construction. The frame then loses it stiffness and strength overall, leaving you with less power and control.

A non-scientific rule of thumb is to think about stringing yearly as many times as you play per week.

If you’re an avid player and string your racquet regularly, the stringing process is more taxing on the frame than actual play. During stringing, racquets get distorted, torqued and stressed as the strings are tensioned. Of course, the frame gets back to its original shape once the process is completed.

Please don’t let this stop you from restringing your racquet. New strings can improve performance immediately.

In fact, since the lifespan of a racquet is relative to how it’s being used, if you think your frame isn’t performing well (and it’s not you!) try demo-ing the model racquet that’s closest to yours and compare how they play.

Also, keep in mind that nothing lasts forever and some things are made for you to do your best to wear out – like tennis racquets.

After looking at my current racquets and realizing how many times I’ve strung them and how many hundreds of balls they’ve been responsible for hitting (mis-hits, too), it was very easy to say “Merry Christmas” to myself.

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com