Pickleball was invented by three dads in 1965. They were looking for a new sport to entertain their kids. They also didn’t want to purchase all-new sporting equipment, which is why their creation combined the most riveting aspects of ping pong, tennis and badminton. The dads named their invention “pickleball” after Pickles, a dog, which was generous of them considering how little Pickles actually contributed to the sport’s creation.

Today, pickleball is a phenomenon. About 50 million Americans play it at least once a year. Some of them appreciate the fast-paced competition. Some of them appreciate the heart-pumping exercise. Most players love both!

Pickleball is also a big hit because it is low-impact exercise: no sprinting, jumping or heavy lifting required. That explains why the majority of pickleball’s core players, who play at least eight times annually, are 55 or older.

Pickleball Is Low-Impact – But It Still Causes Injuries

Unfortunately, low-impact exercise still can have plenty of impact. Even the captain of a football team is susceptible to common pickleball injuries, such as:

  • Pickleball elbow

    You have already heard of tennis elbow. It is an overuse injury that can also occur in the forearm and wrist, and has symptoms of pain, stiffness and swelling. Pickleball may involve slightly different repetitive arm movements than those of tennis, although pickleball elbow and tennis elbow are the same exact condition (which is alternatively known as lateral epicondylitis).

  • Achilles tendinitis

    Your Achilles tendon connects your calf bone to your heel. Although it is the largest tendon in your body, and can withstand forces in excess of 1,000 pounds, your Achilles is still susceptible to damage from sudden injury and overuse. Achilles tendinitis often affects runners who have recently started a higher-intensity regimen, but is also common in people who only play racquet sports on the weekend.

  • Rotator cuff injury

    The muscles of your ribs and shoulder blades are connected to your upper arm bone by four tendons. Collectively, those tendons are known as the rotator cuff. Rotator cuff injuries are usually caused by gradual wear and tear, which is why they are common in seniors. They can also result from repetitive arm movements (i.e. paddle swinging) and sudden falls on the pickleball court.

  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL) strain

    Your MCL stabilizes your knee joint, and protects it against injury while you are rapidly moving side to side. Pickleball is a sport of moving side to side quickly, which is why MCL strains and tears aren’t uncommon among players.

  • Ankle sprain

    A tough band of ligaments supports your ankle. Unfortunately, it isn’t so tough that it can’t overextend or tear. Sprained ankles are often treatable through the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. When extreme pain, swelling, or difficulty walking persist, medical attention may be required.

  • Fractures

    Falling on any hard surface can fracture your hip or the bones in your wrist – pickleball courts included. Anyone’s bones are delicate enough to break as well, although seniors are at higher risk of both hip and wrist fractures.

How to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

You cannot eliminate your risk of injury while you are playing pickleball – but you can take a few reasonable precautions against them. Here’s what you should do if you want to stay safer while you’re out on the court!

  • Stretch

    – Stretching before a workout brings many benefits, including increased blood flow to targeted muscle groups, loosened tendons and muscles, and reduced risk of strain. Stretching after a workout helps reduce pain and fatigue by eliminating lactic acid from the bloodstream. But don’t limit stretching to pre- and post-game! When you stretch as regular exercise, you can benefit from improved athletic performance, greater balance, and a lower risk of strains and sprains.

  • Use a lighter paddle

    A light paddle may lack as much power as a heavier one, but it will give you more agility and control over the ball. In addition to improving finesse, a lighter paddle will also exert less stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the length of your arm. That helps to prevent fatigue and the greater vulnerability to injury that comes with it.

  • Stay hydrated

    You’re no stranger to being advised to drink water. That’s because staying hydrated has many advantages, such as reduced susceptibility to orthopedic injuries. When they are hydrated, muscles are more flexible and resistant to straining.

  • Wear the right shoes

    A good pair of tennis shoes is best for pickleball (and by “tennis shoes,” we do mean shoes that are specifically designed for tennis). Tennis shoes provide traction, cushioning, and strong lateral support that all aid in injury prevention. Some of the best pickleball shoes are designed with pickleball exclusively in mind – a worthwhile investment if you spend a lot of time with a paddle in your hand.

Sadly, all the precautions in the world can’t eliminate your chance of injuring yourself on the court. If you are an injured athlete who looks forward to returning to the game as soon as possible, then we welcome you to contact Acucare Physical Therapy in Sioux Falls, SD today! Our sports therapy services include AlterG, Astym, and several other proven rehabilitative orthopedic therapies.