If you want to understand why are tennis balls used at the bottom of walkers, including the pros and cons associated with doing the same and possible alternatives, here’s our ultimate guide associated with the same.
In the piece below we cover the basics on the purpose of having tennis balls on walkers, the process to be able to do that, possible alternatives and the issues associated with using these balls for a walker.
Why Do People Put Tennis Balls on Walkers?
Walkers with tennis balls help those people who like to or can only slide the walker rather than lift it. The use of tennis balls, in such cases, helps people slide the walker more easily by offering slightly more stability than otherwise.
How the use of tennis balls does this is its material offers traction which otherwise isn’t present at the base of the walkers which have rubber tips, especially for those who don’t lift the walker up with every step they take.
Since the surface area of tennis balls is more than your regular rubber tips of these walkers, they offer that stability which is otherwise missing.
Quite a few of those who have used tennis balls under their walkers attest to their usefulness but there is always that learning curve to adapt to its use, especially if one has been using a walker without tennis balls for a while.
Once the patient, however, gets used to it, tennis balls have been said to make life much easier for those using walkers.
Using tennis balls also reduces the squeaky noise associated with the wearing rubber, something is bound to happen quicker if the walker is dragged more than it should.
Which brings us to the next question…
Why Not Replace the Rubber Foot on Your Walker Instead of Using Tennis Balls?
A walker needs to be used to lift, move and dropped forward but most of those who use it end up dragging it forward, in turn wears out the rubber quicker than it should.
The users have the option to keep replacing the rubber or use the aforementioned tennis balls, and the reason why most go for the latter is it’s a lot cheaper to go with that option than to actually replace the rubber on the walker’s legs or even repair the same.
How to Put Tennis Balls on Walkers?
While at first you might find the process to attach the tennis balls to the feet of your walker a tad complicated and cumbersome, it should only be a matter of time you get used to it, like is the case with most things new.
Here’s a step by step guide on how you can attach tennis balls to your walker.
Step 1: Get the needed equipment. This includes a couple of used tennis balls, a cutter and a hammer and a nail to kickstart the process.
Step 2: Hold the tennis ball in place using your hand. You can also use a vise if you have a DIY kit with you but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Step 3: Using the nail and hammer, poke a hole into one of the sides of the tennis to let the air inside escape.
Step 4: Then, using the cutter, cut a straight line on the surface, of the length of about 1.5 to 2 inches. This will vary depending on the size of your walker’s feet.
Step 5: Cut another line on the tennis ball at a perpendicular to the previous line, such that you have made an X sign.
Step 6: Repeat this for the second tennis ball too.
Step 7: Turn your walker around and insert the two tennis balls to the end of the legs of your walker.
Here’s a video that perfectly shows how you can cut tennis balls in a bid to use them for your walker.
Tennis Ball Cutters?
This isn’t quite recommended since there’s a cost involved with this, so the aforementioned process to cut the tennis balls should work just fine.
However, if you want to know what a tennis ball cutter is, it’s a machine that makes a similar cut to the one we explained above but in a matter of a second. You just need to hold the tennis ball in position and rotate the handle once to get the perfect cut.
Here’s a quick video of how a tennis ball cutter works.
What are Walker Balls?
If you don’t want to go through the whole process of selecting and buying old tennis balls and then making that X-signed hole using the aforementioned tools, the best thing to do is to buy what’s called the walker ball.
A walker tennis ball is a pre-made tennis ball converted to fit your walker, typically in a set of two balls. These are a ready-to-use set of tennis balls for your walker which you can plug and play rather easily.
Some of the popular brands of walker balls available online include:
- Top Glides
- Star Top
- RMS Walker Glide
These balls offer the same comfort that the self-made tennis balls for walkers would but with the added benefit of fitting perfectly without having to worry about making a wrong cut. These are also available in almost every colour you want, including brown, grey, blue, green, pink and other multi-coloured options.
Issues with Putting Tennis Balls on Walkers
Not everyone is in favour of using tennis balls for their walkers but more vitally there are health arguments against doing so as well.
For example, in 2010, NOVA, which is a leading brand on mobility products like the walker, launched a campaign which went by the name of Lose the Tennis Balls in a bid to push people away from doing the same.
Now some might argue it could have been down to their vested interest in the same given they had launched their own walkers which slid more comfortably than the previous version but the CEO of NOVA, Sue Chen had nothing of it.
Chen had said:
“I’ve got nothing against tennis balls – on the court or at the dog park!”
“But people use them on walkers without even thinking about it. Tennis balls on walkers are unsafe, unsanitary and unattractive. They pick up and track germs, they make the walker unstable, they actually add to the wear and tear on the walker, and they are a disrespect to the person using the walker.”
Refuting that it was only about selling their newer products, Chen had said that putting tennis balls on their walkers was risky business and could lead to a quicker wear and tear for the equipment as well.
Here are some of the purported problems with using these balls on walkers.
- Simply speaking there are pre-made alternatives which offer a similar relief as walkers that rely on tennis balls.
- According to experts, these tennis balls might a health hazard since they attract a lot of germs.
- Tennis balls also absorb moisture very easily thereby becoming heavier and more difficult to use.
- Experts also reckon if the tennis balls are not used properly or attached wrongly, it could lead to safety issues for the user.
- Using tennis balls can also add to the wear and tear of the walker itself, which reduces the life span of the equipment. This could, in addition, lead to a safety hazard.
- The process is obviously cumbersome. It needs some know-how about how to attach the tennis balls to a walker and that adds to the work-list of and could overwhelm someone with a disability.
- You could get it wrong while trying to fit these tennis balls as walkers and that could add to the problems rather than sort them out.
- It’s not stylish. Not the most important reason obviously but if you are one for fashion, having tennis balls on your walker doesn’t come across as the most aesthetic option.
Some of the aforementioned issues can be overcome easily.
Like you could hire someone to cut the tennis balls for you and you can consistently replace the the tennis balls every time you think they are getting dirty. And one can use used tennis balls from a nearby tennis club or even purchase used balls at a very economical price as well.
Alternatives to Tennis Balls on Walkers
If you think tennis balls aren’t quite safe for your walker and are looking for alternatives to using them for your walker, then you could look at skis for them.
As the name suggests, these are smaller version of skis which are attached to the feet of the walker in a bid to try and get them to slide on ground like how a ski does on snow. This is how a ski walker looks like.
The other option is go with walker coasters which offer a better and safer alternative to tennis balls according to their manufacturer. They are slotted over a walker’s leg and allow users to overcome the same issues, i.e. providing stability and traction without the cons associated with tennis balls.