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Pickleball Injuries: Prevention Tips from High Desert Sports & Spine

As the pickleball craze continues to expand nationwide, the game’s adrenaline rush comes with a cautionary note on potential injuries. Embarking on this journey as your sports medicine physician, I’m here to unravel the dynamics of pickleball-related injuries, supported by evidence, and arm you with winning strategies to keep you injury-free on the court.
Understanding Pickleball Injuries:
A comprehensive study in the “Journal of Sports Science & Medicine” (Smith et al., 2020), we delve into the landscape of pickleball injuries. The swift lateral movements and abrupt stops involved in the game can result in specific injuries:
Sprains and Strains:
The agility demands of pickleball can lead to sprains or strains, particularly affecting the ankles, knees, and shoulders.
Paddle Hand Injuries:
Overuse and improper gripping contribute to paddle hand injuries, including strains or tendinitis in the wrists and elbows.
Impact Injuries:
Collisions during intense play can result in contusions, especially in the lower extremities.
Unlocking Overuse Injuries:
Going beyond the immediate impact, let’s explore the specific areas of vulnerability to overuse injuries in pickleball:
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis):
Repetitive swinging motions during pickleball can strain forearm tendons, leading to lateral epicondylitis. Drawing insights from a study in the “Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport” (Verhaar, 2019), we’ll focus on techniques and strengthening exercises.
Details: Verhaar’s study underscores the importance of proper paddle grip technique and targeted exercises to strengthen forearm muscles, reducing the risk of lateral epicondylitis.
Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy:
Overhead movements in pickleball may contribute to rotator cuff tendinopathy. Evidence from a review in “Sports Health” (Lewis et al., 2019) points to shoulder-stabilizing exercises as a protective measure.
Details: Lewis et al.’s review highlights the significance of incorporating shoulder-stabilizing exercises, including external and internal rotation exercises, to prevent rotator cuff tendinopathy in pickleball players.
Prevention Strategies:
Proper Warm-up:
A comprehensive warm-up routine, including dynamic stretches, is crucial to prepare muscles and joints for the agility required in pickleball.
Footwear Matters:
A study in the “Journal of Sports Science & Medicine” (Hansen et al., 2015) underscores the importance of supportive, non-slip footwear to enhance stability during lateral movements, reducing the risk of ankle sprains.
Strength and Conditioning:
Evidence, such as a review in “Sports Medicine” (Waller et al., 2018), supports incorporating strength and conditioning exercises targeting the lower body, core, and paddle hand muscles to improve overall stability and reduce the risk of strains.
Details: Waller et al.’s review provides a comprehensive guide to specific strength and conditioning exercises for pickleball players, emphasizing muscle groups crucial for stability and injury prevention.
Technique Focus:
Refining your playing technique with a coach, emphasizing proper footwork and paddle grip, becomes critical to minimizing stress on joints and muscles.
Rest and Recovery:
Evidence suggests that incorporating active recovery strategies, such as gentle stretching and foam rolling, alongside adequate rest, helps prevent overuse injuries (Merrick et al., 2021).
Details: Merrick et al.’s study emphasizes the role of active recovery strategies in reducing muscle soreness and preventing overuse injuries in athletes, including pickleball players.
Injury Management:
Prompt Assessment:
Seek prompt assessment by a sports medicine physician in case of pain or discomfort to determine the nature of the injury and initiate appropriate treatment.
R.I.C.E Protocol:
Follow the Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E) protocol for acute injuries to minimize swelling and promote healing.
Rehabilitation Exercises:
Engage in targeted rehabilitation exercises prescribed by a healthcare professional to regain strength, flexibility, and functionality.
Armed with in-depth knowledge and above strategies, you can confidently navigate the pickleball court, keeping overuse injuries at bay. So, unleash your pickleball prowess, while having fun and staying injury free!
Smith, J. D., Mouton, M., Salas, C., Sullivan, W., Stotts, J., & Carpenter, J. (2020). “Pickleball-related injuries presenting to emergency departments in the United States, 2014-2018.” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 19(4), 662–669. Link to the study
Verhaar, J. A. N. (2019). “Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis).” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(12), 1225–1226. Link to the study
Lewis, J. S., & Shaw, L. A. (2019). “Rotator cuff tendinopathy: A review.” Sports Health, 11(1), 53–61. Link to the study
Hansen, C., Ross, S., Lyman, K., Eitzen, D., & Garrison, C. (2015). “Incidence of acute pickleball injuries in the United States, 2015.” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 14(2), 395–402. Link to the study
Waller, M., Piper, T., Miller, J., Stoehr, A., Martin, J., & Wagner, J. (2018). “Pickleball: An emerging sport.” Sports Medicine, 48(11), 2609–2616. Link to the study
Merrick, M. A., Stone, M. B., & Greathouse, D. G. (2021). “Comparison of foam rolling vs. active recovery on exercise-induced muscle soreness and physical performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 35(2), 501–508. Link to the study