The most common pickleball injuries are Achilles tendonitis, rotator cuff and shoulder sprains, and pickleball elbow. The best methods of injury prevention are a thorough warm-up, proper equipment (especially court shoes), and allowing yourself to heal properly if you're injured.
How many people are getting injured playing pickleball?
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Despite the fact that pickleball has a reputation as a casual, fun sport, it can be intense. It requires fast, reactive movements and sudden bursts of physical activity. When combined with the general demographic of pickleball players (which trends slightly older than other sports), it is no surprise that sports injuries are relatively common.
According to one study, there were over 19,000 pickleball-related sports injuries that required health assistance in 2019. The same study estimated that 90% of the patients treated for pickleball injuries were over 50, with the split relatively even between male and female pickleball players. The most common injuries reported in the study were strains and sprains (28.7%) and fractures (27.7%).
Common Pickleball Injuries
One of the most common pickleball injuries is the straining and spraining of the shoulder area, including the rotator cuff.
These “overuse injuries” are usually caused by repeated overextensions of the joint when thrusting your pickleball paddle toward the ball. Though it is possible to cause rotator cuff injuries while playing pickleball, most shoulder complaints are muscle strains. Repeated straining of the shoulder muscle can cause pain, reduced range of motion, and inflammation.
Pickleball elbow (similar to tennis elbow or golf elbow) is a typical overuse injury that can lead to soreness in the elbow’s tendons and ligaments.
Pickleball elbow is a type of tendinitis caused by repeated movements over time. It can be exacerbated by incorrect form and technique, which means it’s common among new pickleball players. Playing pickleball with poor technique can lead to a build-up of small tears in the tendons and ligaments of your elbow.
A lot of pickleball injuries are caused simply by players slipping and falling. Due to the hard surface of a pickleball court, ankle sprains and wrist fractures are common.
The impact of running across the court can cause injuries as well, leading to soreness and stiffness in the lower back. Heel bruising can build up in the heel’s fat pad over time, especially among players who don’t use proper, well-supported court shoes.
Achilles tendonitis develops as an overuse injury due to repeated strain on the lower leg. Repeated strain causes tears along the Achilles tendon, leading to pain, stiffness, and potential swelling.
How to recover from common pickleball injuries
As hard as it can be, the best way to recover from most pickleball injuries is to rest. If you attempt to rush back to the court after a case of tendinitis, or to push through soreness in your lower back or ankle sprains, you will prevent your body from healing and potentially exacerbate the problem.
If your injury is serious, physical therapy may be needed. Consulting with a physical therapist about the best way to return to the sport and any exercises you can do to speed up your recovery is always a good idea.
How to avoid pickleball injuries
The best plan to play and enjoy pickleball for as long as possible is to have a strong injury prevention plan, including warm-ups, proper court shoes, and hydration.
Rather than jumping straight into pickleball games, try arriving early to give yourself time to warm up. Stretching your muscles can prevent tears and strains.
Ensure you have good court shoes that properly support your legs and back. Make sure you have the right size and consider consulting with a physical therapist or podiatrist on the best shoes to prevent injury.
Making sure to hydrate throughout your play can also prevent injuries. When you’re dehydrated, your reaction times are slower and your thoughts are less logical. This can cause pickleball players to make rash decisions, potentially leading to injury.
Another injury prevention strategy is knowing your limits. If you have preexisting issues with your knees, back, or hamstring, don’t do anything that could cause these to flare up. This sometimes means accepting your limits and losing a point you might have been able to win. Having a competitive edge is good, but it’s no good winning a point if you then injure yourself and can’t complete the match.
Is pickleball safe for seniors?
One of the biggest causes of pickleball’s high injury rate is the demographic of its player base. Many pickleball players fall into the over-50s age bracket, which makes them more prone to injury.
Although injuries happen in pickleball, it is a safe sport for seniors. Make sure you warm up and use the right equipment. If you do pick up an injury, take the appropriate time off to rest. Following these steps will give you the best chance to play pickleball injury-free.
Final Tip: Don't neglect hydration. Pre-hydrating and staying hydrated throughout your pickleball sessions or tournaments is very important. Click here to calculate how much water you need.
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