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Stay On The Court By Preventing Pickleball Injuries

Pickleball Elbow | Play-PKL

Although pickleball seems like a slower, lower-impact sport, injuries can and do happen, especially for players over 50, and even more so for those who go from doing nothing to playing pickleball five days per week. But the incidence of these injuries can be substantially reduced with a few simple tips.

Most Pickleball injuries can be divided into two categories: Overuse and Trauma.

Overuse Injuries

  • Pickleball Elbow: Pickleball elbow is analogous to tennis or golf elbow, and is caused by intense overuse without regular preventive maintenance, resulting in tendonitis of the elbow.
  • Rotator Cuff Tear: Tendonitis and tears in the shoulder joint can be cause by overreaching or swinging and missing.
  • Hamstring and Achilles Strains: Both the hamstring muscle, which runs down the back of the thigh, and the Achilles, which is the tendon between the calf and heel can be pulled by sudden or jerky movements.

Trauma Injuries

  • Foot Injuries: ankle sprain, torn plantar fascia (tissue connecting heal to toes), and sprained or torn ACL/MCL (knee ligaments) may be caused by an ankle roll or from changing direction rapidly. Falling on the court can also cause kneecap, heel and hip injuries.
  • Wrist Injury: When a player falls, it is common to reach out with a hand to slow the fall… and then end up with a fractured wrist.

Four Tips to Prevent Injury

  1. Stretch and Warm Up: As we get older, our muscles, tendons and ligaments become less resilient and flexible. Spend a few minutes stretching to warm up your muscles before you play. Start with full body movements like leg and arm swings, front-to-back and side-to-side lunges, a few squats, some torso twists, shoulder rolls and a light jog in place. Once your body is warmed up, start hitting gently back and forth from the kitchen line before backing up to the baseline. 

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  2. Right Equipment: Use a paddle with an appropriate weight and grip size. A heavier paddle (> 8.5oz) can cause elbow strain and fatigue in your arm if you haven’t built up enough strength for it. As we get older, pinching puts more stress on the hand. So if you don’t have a good, tacky grip or the right size grip for your hand, you end up squeezing harder and putting increased pressure on the wrist.
  3. Proper Footwear: Foot and ankle injuries can be prevented by simply wearing the right type of shoe for the activity and surface (a court shoe). Absolutely avoid wearing running shoes to play pickleball. Running shoes are made to run in a straight line in one direction and will not support the stop and go, side-to-side movement required in pickleball. Court shoes focus on lateral support and stability. Wearing a running shoe to play court sports can also result in ankle rolls and injuries to the plantar fascia.
  4. Listen to Your Body: Don’t play through pain. If you find yourself adjusting your movement to accommodate a persistent ache or pain, take a day or two off to rest. If you don’t feel better, seek professional help.

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