If you have been to any tennis courts lately you might have noticed that there are four square courts inside a tennis court. That’s because Pickleball has quickly become one of the fastest growing sports.
In fact, Pickleball is currently the fasting growing sport in the United States of America. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) estimated that in 2017 there were over 2.8 million Pickleball players in the U.S., which was an increase of 12.3% from the previous year.1
Pickleball is becoming a wildly popular sport for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Combining elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, it provides a fantastic opportunity to stay active and socialize. However, like any sport, Pickleball is not without its risks.
In this blog, we will take a closer look at five common Pickleball injuries and provide comprehensive guidance on how to avoid them.
1. Sprained ankles
One of the most prevalent injuries in Pickleball is a sprained ankle. It often occurs when players make sudden lateral movements, pivot, or land awkwardly on the court.
- Proper Footwear: Wearing appropriate court shoes with good traction and ankle support is essential to minimize the risk of sprained ankles.
- Bracing: Wearing an ankle brace can reduce your chance for an ankle sprain and/or lessen the severity of the injury.
- Warm-up Routine: Before stepping onto the court, engage in a thorough warm-up. This will prepare your muscles and joints for the physical demands of the game.
- Balance and Footwork: Developing good balance and footwork can significantly reduce the likelihood of missteps that lead to ankle injuries.
- Stability and strengthening program: This is one of the most important parts to reducing injuries by strengthening your core, hips and ankles.
2. Tennis elbow
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common overuse injury in Pickleball. Similar to tennis or any racket sport the repetitive gripping and swinging motions put strain on the tendons of the forearm. Which will lead to inflammation and result in a tendonitis.
- Correct Paddle Grip: Ensure you are using the correct paddle grip and consider using a paddle with a cushioned grip to reduce the impact on your forearm.
- Strength Training: Incorporate forearm and wrist strengthening exercises into your fitness routine to build up the necessary muscle strength.
- Bracing: Using an elbow band that provides compression which will disperse the forces onto the tendon.
- Listen to Your Body: If you experience pain or discomfort in your elbow, it’s crucial to rest and seek medical advice. Ignoring the pain can lead to more severe issues.
3. Shoulder injuries
Shoulder injuries are often the result of overhead shots and serves in Pickleball. These can lead to rotator cuff strains, labral tears and tendinitis.
- Proper Techniques: Pay close attention to your serving and swinging techniques. Avoid overexertion, as improper movements can strain your shoulder. For example, if you don’t have enough range of motion in your shoulder you will start to compensate and strain your muscles.
- Strengthening Exercises: Regularly incorporate shoulder-strengthening exercises into your fitness regimen. Building up the muscles around your shoulder joint can provide better support and stability.
- Mobility program: Working on decreasing tight muscles surrounding the shoulder, scapula and thoracic area can aide in movement and improve the range of your serve.
- Pre-Game Warm-up: Stretch and warm up your shoulder muscles before playing to enhance their flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
4. Knee injuries
Knee injuries in Pickleball, such as ligament, muscle strains or meniscus tears can occur when players make sudden stops, pivots, or quick lateral movements.
- Quality Footwear: Choose shoes with good cushioning and support, especially in the midsole area, to reduce the impact on your knees.
- Hip/Core/Lower Leg Strengthening: Engage in glute-strengthening and quad/hamstring exercises to stabilize your knee joints. A strong foundation is crucial for preventing knee injuries.
- Proper Footwork: Focus on maintaining proper footwork to reduce unnecessary stress on your knees. It’s essential to pivot and move gracefully and efficiently.
- Bracing: Wearing a knee brace can be an option to reduce the risk of an injury or overuse.
6. Back injuries
Back injuries can result from the twisting, bending, and sudden movements required in Pickleball. This often leads to strains or other back-related problems.
- Proper Posture: Maintain good posture and use your legs to bend and lift rather than relying on your back. This simple practice can significantly reduce the risk of back injuries.
- Core and Back Strengthening: Incorporate core and back-strengthening exercises into your fitness routine. A strong core provides better support to your spine.
- Biomechanics: Pay attention to your biomechanics in your shots and movements. Making sure your body moves correctly can help avoid straining your back.
In addition to these specific injury prevention tips, here are some general recommendations to keep in mind while playing Pickleball:
- Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential to prevent muscle cramps and fatigue. Be sure to drink water or electrolyte-rich beverages before, during, and after your game.
- Listen to Your Body: If you experience pain or discomfort, take a break, and seek medical advice. Ignoring pain can lead to more severe injuries.
- Protective Gear: Consider investing in appropriate protective gear, such as knee braces, ankle braces or elbow bands, to provide extra support and minimize the risk of injury.
- Court Conditions: Play on well-maintained courts with proper markings to avoid tripping hazards. A safe playing environment is crucial for injury prevention.
Pickleball injuries, while not uncommon, can be reduced with the right precautions.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, prioritizing safety and taking steps to protect yourself from these common injuries should always be a part of your Pickleball strategy.
By following the guidelines mentioned in this blog, you can continue to have fun on the Pickleball court while minimizing the risk of injuries.
Stay safe, stay active, and enjoy this exciting sport to the fullest!
- Greiner Nicholas. Pickleball: Injury Considerations in an Increasingly Popular Sport. Mo Med. 2019 Nov-Dec; 116 (6): 488-491.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
EVAN JEFFRIES is a physical therapist with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. He is also the owner of Evolving Motion Physical Therapy and has vast knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and has treated many orthopedic conditions by bringing a proactive approach to healthcare and lifestyle. Recently he has also been active on social media as an injury analyst mainly in related to injuries NBA players have sustained. Evan can be followed on his social media accounts.