Pickleball is a safe, low-impact racquet sport that is played by many people with mobility issues or existing knee injuries. It is easier on the knees than other similar sports, such as tennis or squash. However, pickleball can still cause injuries. Consult with a doctor if you have any concerns, and make sure you warm up before each game and wear proper court shoes.
Can you play pickleball if you have bad knees?
Yes, you can play pickleball if you have bad knees.
As one of the fastest-growing sports worldwide, pickleball is still relatively new – and, as such, we are still figuring out the full extent of its impact on the body. However, the consensus is that pickleball is a safe and low-impact physical activity, as long as the proper precautions are taken (good court shoes, warming up) to avoid overuse injuries and soreness.
However, there are some concerns to be aware of.
Pickleball, like many other racquet sports, can cause injuries that result in knee pain. This is due to the amount of twisting, pivoting, and lunging the sport requires, as well as the frequent sharp lateral stops and starts. These factors make knee injuries relatively common in pickleball. If you’re healing an acute knee issue, it may be better to stick to a sport like swimming while your injury heals.
However, due to the calmer movements required in pickleball when compared to tennis or badminton, people often become pickleball players because injuries have prevented them from playing riskier sports.
If you have an existing knee injury, it is always best to consult a physical therapist or doctor specializing in orthopedics. They will be able to give you the best advice on how to manage your injury and avoid any further damage.
Is pickleball easier on your knees than other sports?
In comparison to other racquet sports, pickleball is easier on the knees. This is mainly because games on the pickleball court are played at a slower pace and over a smaller distance, requiring less running at a slower speed. This minimizes the amount of impact through the ligaments and knee joints, the areas where the most common injuries occur.
The table below indicates which sports are the best and worst for people with bad knees.
|Best Sports for Bad Knees||Worst Sports for Bad Knees|
|Pickleball||Long jump / high jump|
|Weight lifting (except deadlifting)|
Risks of playing pickleball with bad knees
The most common injuries related to playing pickleball are acute sprains and tears. Sprains often affect the ligaments around the knee and are caused by lunging, twisting, and pivoting at high speeds. Sprains can make it hard to bear weight on the affected leg, a factor that is often exacerbated by lateral movement.
Another common pickleball injury to the knee area is a torn meniscus. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the thigh and shin bones. Tears to this region can cause soreness, limited lateral movement, and swelling.
These injuries are treated in a number of ways:
- Knee braces
- Physical therapy
- Surgery (like knee replacement)
Preventing knee injuries while playing pickleball
To prevent knee injuries while playing pickleball, ensure you have the correct equipment. Complete a full warm-up before playing and cool down after.
The most important gear for your pickleball games is your choice of court shoes. Court shoes should fit you correctly and have ample padding on the sole to absorb the impact of running across the court. They should also have ankle support to prevent Achilles tendon strains.
It is possible to play pickleball in running shoes. However, this is not recommended. Running shoes are designed for moving in straight lines, while pickleball requires a lot of left-to-right movement. Proper court shoes are designed to support you while making the specific motions racket sports require, so it is always best to get specialist pickleball/tennis footwear.
Some of the best warm-ups for bad knees are:
- Step Ups – stepping up on and off a step 10-15 times with each leg.
- Hamstring Curls – lie flat on your back, raise your knee to your chest, hold for 10-30 seconds, and then repeat 10-15 times. Alternatively, lie on your front and bring your heel to your buttocks).
- Straight Leg Lifts – lie flat on your back with one leg outstretched straight and the other bent with the heel close to the buttocks. Raise the straight leg 10-15 inches into the air with the toes kept pointed, hold for five seconds, and then lower. Repeat 5-10 times for each leg.
Other common pickleball injuries
In addition to knee injuries, there are a number of other common pickleball injuries experienced by keen players of the sport.
Hamstring muscles, quadriceps, calf muscles, and other leg muscles in the lower leg and lower extremities can become strained by physical activity. Injuries to the Achilles tendon are common and can take weeks to heal. Pickleball players can also experience injuries in the upper body, especially the arm (rotator cuff problems and tennis elbow being the most common), and soreness/stiffness in the lower back (caused by the repeated impact on the hard court).
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