Pickleball, the enthralling fusion of badminton, ping pong, and tennis, is sweeping across the nation with an electrifying wave of enthusiasm. This beloved pastime has experienced an unprecedented popularity surge, especially during the pandemic, and has earned its stripes as one of America's fastest-growing sports. However, with the fun and excitement, it is essential to address the elephant in the room - pickleball injuries. Embracing an approach of preparing your body to be more bulletproof via good posture and function will ensure you enjoy the game to the fullest without compromising your well-being.
What are Pickleball Injuries?
Pickleball injuries primarily affect the muscles, joints, and ligaments and are often due to overuse or improper playing techniques. These injuries can affect anyone who plays the sport, whether you're a seasoned professional or just picking up a paddle for the first time. These injuries are especially prevalent for seniors, who form a significant chunk of the pickleball community. In 2023 alone, pickleball injuries are expected to cost Americans $377 million in healthcare costs, making up 5% to 10% of total unexpected medical expenses. (Statistics from this CNN.com article.)
Most Common Pickleball Injuries
The exhilarating pace and swift movements of pickleball make it incredibly engaging but also expose players to various injuries. Here are some of the most common pickleball injuries:
- Rotator cuff injuries: Often resulting from the high-speed torque or repetitive motion of swinging a paddle.
- Tennis elbow and Pickleball elbow (Epicondylitis): Pain in the elbow attributed to overuse of arm muscles.
- Achilles tendon injuries: These can occur from rapid movements and abrupt stops.
- Ankle sprains: Often happen due to the quick, lateral movements in the game.
- Knee pain and meniscus issues: Due to pivoting and sudden changes in direction.
- Hamstring pulls and strains: From overstretching, not warming up properly or postural issues like anterior pelvic tilt.
Additionally, around 60% of pickleball injuries consist of sprains, strains, and fractures, with 20% being contusions, abrasions, or internal injuries. And while most will blame the game of pickleball, as postural therapists, we first look at the body going into the sport for susceptibilities to injury and fixing the posture deviations and dysfunctions.
Why Do Pickleball Injuries Happen?
Several factors contribute to pickleball injuries. The “can-do” and competitive attitude, especially among seniors, often pushes them beyond their limits — which wouldn’t be so bad if they were training their bodies to be ready for this type of activity. Furthermore, improper footwear, inadequate warm-up, and poor playing techniques also contribute to injuries. The sport's lateral movements and swift pivoting can strain the lower extremities and ligaments, and the game's repetitive nature can lead to overuse injuries.
The famous Stoic saying, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training,” comes to mind. We’re all for more activity — especially when it’s as much fun as pickleball! It’s more a matter of preparing the body to handle the demands of the sport.
How to Prevent a Pickleball Injury
Preventing pickleball injuries is as crucial as the game itself. Here's how:
- Warm-up and align your body before playing: Engage in light exercises to prepare your muscles for exertion by doing your pre-pickleball posture routine. (If you don’t have a specific one for your posture, ask your therapist).
- Use proper footwear: Opt for court shoes with sufficient grip and support, paying attention to wet or slippery surfaces. Make sure your shoes are laced up and provide the kind of support you need for lateral movements.
- Know your limits: It’s essential to recognize when to take a break. Most sports-related injuries, like muscle strains, occur due to fatigue. Your fellow picklers will understand if you need a break.
- Strengthen your muscles: Engage in exercises that build muscle groups relevant to pickleball. You can prevent excessive soreness that keeps you sidelined through proper training to prepare your body for the demands of the sport.
- Stay hydrated and nourished: Bring lots of water, electrolytes, and snacks as needed in order to keep your muscles functioning effectively.
Watch: Pickleball Warm-up
The Role of Sports Medicine and Postural Therapy
Don’t underestimate the value of consulting your postural therapist for movement coaching. They can provide invaluable advice on injury prevention and guide you through rehabilitation if you are injured (likely in conjunction with your physical therapist, depending on the injury). Posture therapists use various approaches to address specific pickleball-related injuries and help improve range of motion and efficient movement.
Returning to the Court: The Mindset and Preparation
Maintaining a positive and realistic attitude when returning to the court after an injury is essential. Being mindful of your body's signals and focusing on gradual improvement can make a world of difference. Equip yourself with the knowledge and tools necessary to reduce the risk of re-injury. Here are some steps to take:
- Ease back into the game: Don't rush. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your play.
- Continue with posture therapy exercises: Incorporate posture-corrective exercises recommended by your therapist to align your body, strengthen your muscles, and improve flexibility. Use the opportunity to root out dysfunctional patterns and get your body working as a whole.
- Monitor your body: Pay attention to any signs of discomfort, compensatory strategies, or pain, and adjust your activity accordingly.
Conclusion: Play Smart, Prepare
Pickleball is a captivating sport that’s here to stay. As one of America’s fastest-growing sports, it's not just about playing but being able to keep playing for as long as you’d like in the years ahead. Understanding the common pickleball injuries and how to prevent them is essential to keeping you in the game. Adopting a thoughtful approach, tapping into your posture and biomechanics-focused movement pros to help guide you, and listening to your body are the key ingredients to enjoying this fantastic sport without the shadow of injury looming over you. Whether you're a spirited senior or an energetic youth, let’s make pickleball a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
Ready to Play?
If you’re eager to dive into the exciting world of pickleball or looking to return after an injury, make sure you’re well-prepared. Consider speaking to your posture therapist to get personalized advice and guidance. Play smart, stay safe, and let the pickling begin! (And if you're looking for other picklers, check out Pickleheads.com.)
Take the Next Step Towards Recovery!
Have you experienced a pickleball injury and are unsure of how to get back on the court safely? Don’t let an injury sideline your love for the game. At Activ8 Posture, our expert therapists specialize in helping athletes recover and thrive. Book a FREE consultation with an Activ8 Posture therapist today and get personalized guidance and support to bounce back stronger than ever! 🏓💪
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is pickleball?
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. It is played on a court similar to a tennis court but smaller, with a net at the center, paddles, and a plastic ball with holes.
Why is pickleball so popular among seniors?
Pickleball is popular among seniors because it is relatively low-impact compared to other racquet sports, and it offers a social and fun way to stay active. The smaller court size also means less running, making it more accessible for people with mobility issues.
What are the most common injuries associated with playing pickleball?
Some of the most common injuries in pickleball include sprains, strains, fractures, tennis elbow, pickleball elbow, and rotator cuff injuries. These injuries usually occur in the wrists, legs, and shoulders.
How can I prevent pickleball injuries?
To prevent pickleball injuries, make sure to warm up and align your body before playing, use proper footwear and equipment, know and respect your body’s limits, focus on strengthening different muscle groups, and adopt proper playing techniques.
Are pickleball injuries different from those in other racquet sports?
While there is some overlap in the types of injuries seen in pickleball and other racquet sports, pickleball has its unique set of injuries due to the specific movements and playing style involved.
I am recovering from a pickleball injury. When can I start playing again?
The time frame for returning to play after a pickleball injury varies depending on the severity of the injury. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or orthopedic specialist, before returning to play.
Is pickleball safe to play for someone with previous sports-related injuries?
A7: Yes, but it's important to take precautions. Consulting a sports medicine specialist like a postural therapist before beginning, using proper equipment, and listening to your body are crucial steps for someone with a history of sports-related injuries. Many recurring injuries occur due to faulty mechanics and compensatory strategies that your posture therapist will help identify and correct with you.
What role does the “can-do” attitude of today’s seniors play in pickleball injuries?
The “can-do” attitude of today’s seniors, while positive in many ways, can sometimes lead to overexertion and an increased risk of sports injuries, including pickleball injuries. Like us all, seniors need to find a balance between staying active and not pushing themselves too hard.
How can I improve my technique to minimize the risk of a pickleball injury?
Taking lessons from a certified pickleball instructor can help improve your technique. Also, focus on proper footwork, paddle grip, and body mechanics. Watching videos and practicing drills can also be beneficial.
What should I do if I get injured while playing pickleball?
If you get injured while playing pickleball, it is essential to stop playing immediately to prevent further injury. Apply the PEACE & LOVE method (yes, RICE was replaced) initially and seek medical attention if necessary. Consulting a sports medicine professional or physical therapist can be helpful for recovery and rehabilitation.