Pickleball is surging in popularity, and it’s easy to see why it’s becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in America. It’s a fun sport, easy to learn and a great form of low-impact exercise for all ages. The sport is a cross between badminton and tennis and can be played on a court indoors or outdoors. Tennis courts across the region have been converted to pickleball courts to meet the growing demand for the sport.
Although pickleball is an engaging sport, there are some risks of injury to keep in mind. Our team at Altru Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is here to share the top injuries they treat as a result of playing pickleball and ways to prevent injuries so you can put your best foot forward during your next match. “Like other sports, it's very important to warm up and stretch appropriately before playing,” says Dr. Lambert. “You increase your risk of muscle sprains, strains and tears if you neglect to do this. Shoulder, elbow, and ankle injuries are very common with these types of sports and many of these injuries are preventable simply by allowing your body to warm up and gradually increasing your activity level.”
Common Pickleball Injuries
Pickleball is a low-impact sport, but it requires quick movement and balance. Due to the quick pace and repetitive nature of the game, players can be at risk for some common pickleball injuries, including:
A common injury from pickleball is a general muscle and shoulder strain. Overextending the shoulder and rotator cuff can cause damage and pain to the muscle. Over time, shoulder injuries can cause pain, inflammation and reduced range of motion.
This common injury to the elbow can be caused by tendonitis or inflammation of the tendons or tissues that connect muscle to bone. It can be caused by repetitive motion during pickleball.
It is possible to sprain or damage ligaments in your ankle or wrist from playing pickleball.
Diving for the ball can result in a fall or can occur if a player slips or trips over a wet surface or obstacle on the court.
Repetitive stress on the tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone is another common injury from the sport. The pain associated with Achilles tendinitis typically begins as a mild ache, but ongoing muscle tension can cause more severe pain and may lead to tendon tears.
How to Prevent Pickleball Injuries
The best way to prevent injury is to ensure you are using the proper equipment for pickleball. “It is very important to wear appropriate footwear and be mindful of the surface you're playing on,” states Dr. Lambert. “Wear athletic shoes, with good traction and ankle support to avoid unnecessary slips and falls.” Supportive shoes can help reduce your risk of foot, ankle, and leg injuries, including strains, sprains and muscle tears. Your shoes should fit correctly and offer support. If you play regularly, you may want to invest in a pair of court shoes that are designed for tennis or pickleball. You may also reduce your risk for pickleball elbow by investing in a good racket. High-quality, and light-weight rackets help to absorb impact and help you avoid placing strain on your forearm muscles.
Routine exercise and a proper diet are not only great for your health but can also lower your risk of potential injury. It’s important to incorporate strengthening exercises to stimulate all of the muscles in your body. Leg exercises such as squats, lunges and calf raises can help build strength.
A proper warmup and stretch before your match are necessary to reduce the risk of injury and prevent muscle strain. In addition, warming up allows the body to have a full range of motion. A brisk 5-minute walk and a few arm and leg stretches will help reduce muscle tension.
Fueling your body before, during, and after your matches with hydration is important for safety, especially if you will be playing outdoors in the heat. Without proper hydration, your body is not able to regulate heat.
When to See a Provider
If you experience an injury from pickleball, it is important to seek proper treatment. In the event of an emergency, you should seek immediate medical assistance. For other non-emergency injuries, our team at Altru Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is here to evaluate your injury and provide an effective treatment plan.