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Injuries in Pickleball - Playing it Safe for Management and Prevention

A Group Playing PickleballHow to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

As a Physiotherapist, I have always had a passion for movement and sport. So several years ago, when I started hearing about this new sport- ‘Pickleball’ that was taking North America by storm, I had to try it. I quickly became obsessed with the game! However, as I delved deeper into the pickleball community, I couldn't help but notice a common concern among players—back pain, neck pain, wrist and elbow injuries and the fear of missing out on the game they love due to injury. In this blog post, I aim to address these concerns head-on and provide practical advice for preventing and managing injuries in pickleball.

Is Pickleball Prone to causing Injury?

Pickleball is often lauded as a low-impact sport, but like any physical activity, it carries a risk of injury, particularly if proper precautions are not taken. While pickleball may not be as high-impact as sports like basketball or tennis, the dynamic nature of the game, sudden changes in direction, and repetitive movements can place stress on the body, increasing the risk of strains, sprains, and overuse injuries. Pickleball is played most commonly on a court, which can put pressure on the ankle, knee and hip joints- especially for people that do not warm up properly and are new to the game.

What are some Pickleball Injuries?

Common injuries in pickleball include strains and sprains, particularly in the back, neck, shoulders, knees, and ankles. The stop-and-go nature of the game, combined with quick lateral movements and overhead shots, can put strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments, leading to injury if not properly managed. Overuse injuries, such as tennis elbow or golfer's elbow, are also prevalent among pickleball players, especially those who engage in frequent play without adequate rest and recovery. Another common injury in Pickleball is wrist fractures due to players running backwards to return a lob shot. More uncommonly, like other racquet sports, ocular injuries can occur from the ball making contact with the face or eyes.

How Many Pickleball Injuries occur per Year?

Statistics on the exact number of pickleball injuries per year are limited, but research suggests that while injuries can occur, they are relatively uncommon compared to higher-impact sports. However, it's essential to recognize that even minor injuries can have a significant impact on a player's enjoyment and participation in the sport, underscoring the importance of injury prevention measures. Pickleball is a highly social sport and is often an important part of the players engagement in their community- time away from playing can mean more social isolation for some which can be a detriment to their emotional health.

Prevention

Preventing injuries in pickleball begins with proper preparation and technique. Here are some key tips for staying safe on the court:

  • Warm up before playing to prepare muscles and joints for activity.
  • Focus on proper technique and form, particularly when serving and striking the ball.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Wear appropriate footwear with good support and traction to prevent slips and falls.
  • Listen to your body and take breaks between games as needed to avoid overexertion and fatigue.
  • Pace yourself, you may only be able to play a few times a week with breaks in between to let your body recover
  • Stay hydrated
  • Incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into your fitness routine to build resilience and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Avoid running backwards to return ‘lob shots’- try and adjust your strategy to avoid these shots being made! Backwards running is a leading cause of injuries like achilles rupture and FOOSH injuries (falling on an outstretched hand)
  • Consider seeking guidance from a physiotherapist or sports medicine professional for personalized injury prevention strategies tailored to your individual needs. Your Physio may also be able to help give advice on bracing to help support your elbows and wrists.

Stay Healthy for Years to Come

Pickleball is a fun and accessible sport that offers numerous physical and social benefits for players of all ages and abilities. By prioritizing safety, injury prevention, and proper technique, players can enjoy the game while minimizing the risk of injury and ensuring a positive and fulfilling experience on the court. Many avid tennis and badminton players switch to pickleball for the low impact benefits of the sport. But remember- you can still make it as competitive as you’d like! There are many leagues in the City that offer competitive opportunities for play and even an individual player ranking system.

As a physiotherapist and pickleball enthusiast, I'm committed to promoting safe and healthy participation in the sport and empowering players to stay injury-free for years to come. Let's continue to play it safe, have fun, and make the most of our time on the pickleball court! See you there!

Jenna Aiuto, Pelvic Health and Orthopedic PhysiotherapistJenna graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology in 2014. She then went on to complete her Masters in Physiotherapy in 2016 from Glasgow Caledonian University. During her education, Jenna gained valuable knowledge and practical experience working with patients suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. She worked on the maternity ward directly with new moms and taught pre- and post-natal pelvic health seminars. Jenna completed her thesis on 'The Effectiveness of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training for the treatment of Urinary Incontinence in Post-natal Women'. This research led her to pursue a specialty in Women's health to treat patients with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, overactive bladder, lumbopelvic pain and dyspareunia. In addition, Jenna has a passion for treating all musculoskeletal injuries and is certified in Functional Dry Needling and Spinal Manipulation. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys travelling, hiking, playing badminton, pickleball and soccer!

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