Major League Pickleball (MLP) has announced that it has established new rules that will go into effect starting August 1, 2023, which will limit certain paddle colors to ensure player safety. According to the MLP, several pro players have voiced opinions regarding an issue where specific bright-colored paddles directly affect their line of sight on a ball during play, giving their opponents an unfair advantage and increasing the risk of injury.
As is true of other racket sports, wearing flashy colors or using brightly-colored paddles can directly impact a pickleball player’s ability to visually sense and track balls during play. The new MLP ruling specifically regards paddle faces as the primary concern, as several paddle models out there use colors that “have insufficient contrast to the color of the ball.”
In particular, various shades of yellow, green, gold, and white are all considered to cause decreased ball visibility. The new ruling, titled MLP 1000, is as follows:
“Paddle faces shall not be designed or decorated in a way which is likely to impair the vision of opposing players or distract opposing players from tracking the ball. For the purposes of this rule, a paddle face is defined as any area of the hitting surface above the top edge of the grip.
General Guidance: It is recommended that the graphic design within any circular area that makes up more than 20% of a paddle face not consist primarily of a Regulated Color or Colors (as identified in Appendix MLP1000A). It is also recommended that any Regulated Colors be distributed over the face of the paddle and not cover the central, or “sweet spot”, area of the paddle face.”
Essentially, players must now only use paddles with faces deemed unlikely to distract their opponents. Graphic design elements consisting of “Regulated Colors” can’t take up more than ⅕ of the paddle face and shouldn’t be located on the paddle’s sweet spot.
Additional rulings include the following, in summary:
MLP1000.10 – Newly manufactured paddles must be submitted to the MLP for review no later than 30 days before an MLP event. The MLP will create a database of non-compliant (illegal) paddles.
MLP1000.20 – Paddles that don’t meet the requirements of MLP1000 will be prohibited from MLP events.
MLP1000.30 – The MLP has the right to make amendments to this rule as they see fit.
In Appendix MLP1000A, they have given the above chart, which identifies the four color ranges that will be regulated with this new ruling. It’s important to note that these are simply color references and aren’t inclusive of every single shade that has been restricted, but rather they are to be used as illustrative of the color ranges that are to be regulated.
An excellent example of a paddle that comes in a bright green colorway is the Onix React. There’s no chance you’ll see this in green at any upcoming MLP event, though the black colorway might make the cut.
It’ll be interesting to see which paddles end up on the illegal paddles database first! Follow the MLP’s website for more updates on tournament rule changes.
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