How to Avoid Common Pickleball Injuries
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Do you enjoy a friendly game of pickleball? You’re not alone. There are 4.8 million “picklers” in the United States, according to a 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
America’s fastest-growing sport is easy to learn and does not require expensive equipment. Another benefit of the pickleball trend is the increase in multigenerational players – grandparents can play with grandkids.
Although the USA Pickleball Association says half of all regular players are 55 and older, Carolyn Marie Landsberg, M.D., says “Pickleball is trickling down to a younger generation. All ages are playing.”
Dr. Landsberg specializes in orthopedic and pediatric sports medicine at the University of Miami Health System.
Those new to the game may not know it is more demanding than it first appears. It’s easy to pack in several games in an afternoon, leading Dr. Landsberg to say, “Some of the more common chronic overuse injuries are things like tendonitis.”
You might develop an overuse injury if you’re overly passionate about pickleball. Because it requires a lot of stops and starts, lower body sprains and strains are not uncommon either.
An ounce of prevention
“At any age, when undertaking something new, don’t go from zero to 100%. Take time to learn, practice, and develop the skills to play correctly,” Dr. Landsberg says.
Pickleball clinics are popping up all over. Learn the proper technique, and you will likely play longer and stronger.
A pregame warm-up is always a good idea, regardless of the sport. Allow at least 10 minutes to get your upper and lower body muscles ready for activity. A walk around the park or light calisthenics, combined with stretching, helps.
Before hitting the court, hit the shoe store. You want a shoe designed for lateral movement. A rigid hard-court shoe is better than a regular running shoe because it provides more ankle support and reduces your risk of injury.
While playing, maintain a wide stance and avoid running backwards to return a shot.
Another tip? “If you’ve never played before, don’t try to play eight hours straight, even if you have the athletic ability in other areas,” says Dr. Landsberg. Stay hydrated and pace yourself. And take a break. Tired players are more likely to slip, trip, fall, or otherwise injure themselves.
You may love pickleball, but don’t stop there.
“Spend time doing other activities that improve your balance to prevent falls on the court, increase your cardiovascular health and stamina, and strengthen bones to prevent injuries,” says Dr. Landsberg.
An old injury or achy joint doesn’t have to sideline you.
“Take it slow. Work around your condition. Being active in any way, shape, or form is great. If you can play without pain, it’s okay.”
To ease discomfort after a game, apply ice to the joint and consider taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.
See a doctor if the pain lingers and interferes with your daily activities.
“When aches and pains start small, we tend to ignore them, but it’s easier to fix problems earlier than later,” Dr. Landsberg says.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Landsberg, call 305-689-5555.
Nancy Moreland is a regular contributor to UMiami Health News. She has written for several major health care systems and the CDC. Her writing also appears in the Chicago Tribune and U.S. News & World Report.