This study measured 1) the speed and spin differences between the old celluloid versus new plastic table tennis balls at pre ball-table impact and post ball-table impact when projected with topspin at 7.56 m.s-1, and investigated 2) the effect this has on the kinematic responses of 5 elite versus 5 sub-elite players’ forehand topspin in response to topspin and backspin. Plastic balls were lower in both speed and spin at pre and post ball-table impact compared with celluloid balls but the magnitude of change in speed and spin for each ball material differed. During flight before impact plastic balls lost 3.98% more speed and 1.24% more spin than celluloid balls. Post ball-table impact, plastic balls showed a greater speed increment (0.69%) and smaller spin decrement (0.19%) than celluloid balls. Differences in players’ kinematic responses to the different ball materials were found only when players returned backspin shots. Players supinated their rackets more by 2.23% at ball-racket contact and produced 3.37% less ball spin when returning plastic compared with celluloid balls; an indication of an early adaptation to the lower spin rate of plastic balls. The lack of differences in kinematic response to topspin may be due to the similar changes in speed and spin of both types of ball at ball-table impact. It is not known if a higher initial ball projection velocity would evoke differences in movement responses from the players post ball-table impact but could be explored in future studies.
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