Have you heard of pickleball? It’s a trending sport and is especially popular with the over-50 crowd. It’s tons of fun and a great way to stay active. But, as with many athletic activities, you can hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. Here’s a look at why this enjoyable racquet sport is gaining popularity and how you can avoid injury while playing.
What Is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a trending sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It’s more active than table tennis without the running involved with regular tennis. So for many players, it offers the best of both worlds. You can play indoors or outdoors on a 20 x 40-foot badminton-size court. Many community centers and rec centers in the DMV are adding pickleball courts to their offerings (all it takes is adding new lines to a tennis court or gymnasium). To get started, you just need a 16 x 8-inch paddle and a plastic pickleball (similar to a wiffleball). It’s easy for beginners to catch on, and you can take it to more competitive levels as you build skills.
Why Is Pickleball So Popular?
Let’s start with the positives. Pickleball is one of the top growth sports in recent years for several reasons:
- You can play it indoors or outdoors.
- It offers opportunities for socialization and fun.
- It’s a terrific way for players of all ages to stay active.
- It’s a low-impact sport that offers gentle cardio activity.
What Are Common Pickleball Injuries?
As with many sports, the health benefits of pickleball generally outweigh the risk of injury. Pickleball is lower-impact than tennis, running, and many other activities. However, players do get hurt. Pickleball requires pivots and side-to-side movements as players go for the ball. We see joint injuries and muscle strains and sprains. Come common injuries include:
- Ankle strains and sprains
- Hip injuries, including muscle strains, as players twist and reach to get to the ball
- Wrist injuries from using an outstretched arm to break a fall
- Achilles strains or tears from rapid movements and footwork
- Lower back injuries from lateral movement and twisting
How Can I Prevent Pickleball Injuries?
- Building your baseline fitness is crucial to avoid injury on the court. Work with your primary care provider to develop cardio fitness and strength before you start competing.
- If you have been inactive or sedentary, talk with your healthcare provider about boosting fitness by walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bike.
- Build core strength to avoid back and hip injuries.
- Always warm up before getting on the court. A few minutes of walking and stretching before and after play can prevent injury.
- Don’t push yourself too hard on the court. We often get competitive and wrapped up in the game, but it’s not worth hurting yourself.
- Talk with your PCP about using a brace if you have a previous ankle injury.
- Select shoes with adequate ankle support. Pickleball is relatively low-impact but involves footwork and lateral movements, so choosing the right shoes is essential.
What Kind of Shoes Do I Need for Pickleball?
Choosing the right shoes is the most critical thing you can do to stay healthy while enjoying the sport of pickleball. In tennis and pickleball, lateral motion plays a significant role. We want shoes that protect our ankles, so regular walking or running shoes aren’t the best choice. Instead, opt for athletic shoes designed for tennis. Court shoes offer the built-in ankle support you need. Invest in durable, high-quality tennis shoes to protect your joints. You can even find shoes specifically for pickleball.
What If I’m Injured Playing Pickleball?
If you experience a pickleball injury, the first step is a check-in with your primary care provider. Your PCP can recommend the necessary X-rays and scans to identify the problem. They will likely be able to treat your injury or, they can make a referral to an orthopedic specialist if needed. They can also suggest a physical therapy program to help you heal, rebuild strength and prevent re-injury.
Starting Pickleball? Talk With Your Primary Care Provider
Thinking of taking up pickleball? Your primary care provider is an excellent resource. They can give you tips on injury prevention and help you build baseline fitness to make your new sport safe and enjoyable. At Comprehensive Primary Care, we love seeing our clients get active. Our providers are here to support your passions and fitness goals–and help you prevent injury along the way.