We’ve recently seen in the news that pickleball is causing a health crisis. According to a UBS Group AG report regarding American health care costs, pickleball injuries apparently account for nearly $400 million.
Like any sport, pickleball comes with the risk of injury. Whether it be slipping on the court or swinging your paddle a little too hard, getting hurt is part of the game. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be unprepared for these scenarios.
Brady Burman-Magday is a strength coach and personal trainer who now specializes in pickleball-related injury recovery. In a recent video, he covered four of the most common injuries that can occur due to pickleball: Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis, Rotator Cuff Injuries, and Pickleball Elbow. Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these four injuries to better understand how to prevent and recover from them!
Achilles Tendonitis is often described as an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, which occurs most often due to repeated strain of the tendon while moving back and forth on the pickleball court. Symptoms often include swelling, pain, and toughness of the tendon, making it difficult to move around with that leg.
While painful, Achilles tendonitis usually can be overcome at home with simple physical therapy exercises and orthotic devices such as shoe insert supports. Taking some time off of the injured leg and rehabilitating it properly as advised by a physical therapist will ensure fast and proper healing.
Wearing proper pickleball shoes will definitely help prevent this injury from occuring, as having the right ankle support and cushioning will prevent unnecessary traumas to the tendon. For prevention, Brady recommends strengthening the muscles surrounding the Achilles by doing soleus and calf raises.
Plantar fasciitis is a pain experienced just below the Achilles tendon in the heel region when the plantar fascia tissue, which runs along the bottom of your foot, becomes inflamed due to being overstressed. It is a common injury in adults between the ages of 40 and 60, and you become at a higher risk of enduring this injury if you actively play a sport such as pickleball.
Brady suggests two basic workouts to help prevent and recover from plantar fasciitis: towel rows and toe-elevated calf raises. Both of these are great at working that plantar fascia tissue at the bottom of the foot that can be difficult to stretch and work during standard exercises.
Again, having the right shoes and inserts will make a huge difference here. Be sure to check out our guide on how to pick out the best pickleball shoes.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
One of the most common joints to injure when playing sports is the shoulder, and the rotator cuff is at the epicenter of many such injuries. This is due to there being many muscles and tendons all working together in such a tight region.
Many rotator cuff injuries are brought on over an extended period of time, such as swinging a pickleball paddle for hours during several play sessions each week. Overhead swings, such as smashes, tend to be the culprit of intensive shoulder use.
Brady recommends two basic upper body exercises: the seated external rotation and a cross-body lying shoulder raise, otherwise known as the Powell raise. When using these exercises for recovery, we recommend starting with using incredibly light weights and working your way up as you notice your shoulders become stronger.
Tennis elbow (Lateral epicondylitis) is another painful overuse injury caused by small tears within the muscles and tendons outside of your elbow, typically felt near the elbow in the forearm. Symptoms, including the common painful, burning sensation, typically develop gradually and simply from playing a lot of pickleball and aren’t usually suddenly brought on by a fall or other traumatic injury.
You’ll usually start to notice this injury by feeling a slight tingling or tenderness within your forearm when holding your paddle. Similar to rotator cuff injuries, pickleball elbow is typically caused just by playing too much pickleball without properly resting your arm and recovering.
Brady suggests focusing on strengthening your forearms and stabilizing your shoulders during upper-body workouts. This will ensure that your arms will feel more innately strong while holding the paddle, causing less tension and strain in your elbow area while swinging.
For more information about maintaining wellness while on the court, be sure to check out our other introductory article about pickleball injuries!
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