Most Common Pickleball Injuries & Safety Measures to Prevent Them

Despite being the most accessible sport, pickleball has a dark side, too—just like all other sports. Hypothetically, pickleball doesn’t sound like a demanding game, as it’s popular among senior Players. However, pickleball injuries have taken a striking turnover since 2010, and now, the number of players suffering from pickleball injuries got whopping. 

Pickleball injuries can be both; minor or severe. Tennis elbow also called the Pickleball elbow, is the most frequent pickleball injury found in players so far. But there’s more. The rising number of players in the game also gives rise to the damage pickleball causes. During the last month, the research faculty of our team made a thorough analysis of the pickleball injury cases from 2010 to 2022 (September). Fortunately, the injuries and harm aren’t as alarming as in other sports. Still, if you remain deaf to the threats, you may be the subsequent patient for pickleball injuries. 

Based on the report, here’s the synopsis of the study, explaining pickleball’s common and chronic injuries and the safety measures to prevent them. 

Common Injuries In Pickleball:

In Pickleball, strain, sprain, fall, and bumps are the most common injuries. It’s because the court of pickleball court is minimal, and to play a competitive play, a player is on his own. We’ll translate the reasons behind the injuries while detailing the damages, so let’s reveal the threats you’d have while playing pickleball. 

Shoulder problems:  

Shoulder problems in pickleball

Shoulder problems are way more common in pickleball than in any other sport. This is because the overhead shots are essential and sometimes turn themselves out as the “winning one”, for which you’ve to apply extra effort and may risk a joint injury in your shoulder. Plus, for the volleys and hard strokes you’ve to stretch your arm in the kitchen while keeping your feet from it. This causes shoulder aches and strain and may last 2-3 days if corrective measures are not taken. 

Prevention: 

If you’re >50, you better not play overhead shots and replace them with other “easy on shoulder” shots. Plus, it’s a must that you exercise prior to the match and after it to keep your muscles in movement. And massage your shoulder with ice for 5 minutes after the game. 

Muscle strains and sprain: 

Muscle strains and sprain

The pickleball strain isn’t limited to the shoulder only. Excessive play may cause muscle strain in your back, lower leg, or arms. In fact, arm strain is prevalent among pickleball players, and it’s because of a heavier paddle or low-quality grip type. Muscle strain and sprain can happen to any player, despite age. However, it’s not severe–they can be treated easily. 

Prevention: 

Do muscle stretching after every game and get them as flexible as possible apply hot olive oil over oil and massage it for 10 minutes. Put a heat or ice bag on the areas with stress or pain. However, if it gets severe, take pain relief and seek a doctor. But in most cases, regular exercise and stretching keep your body active and habitual of athletic activities. 

Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow or Pickleball Elbow): 

pickleball Epicondylitis

The pickleball elbow is aching and sore (Epicondylitis) in your elbow. It results when you use your wrist and arm too much, leading to inflammation, micro-tearing, and constant stress. Pickleball elbow is similar to muscle strain, except that the strain is specific to the elbow, and it can get worse if your paddle action is improper. Besides using the wrist excessively with the wrong movement, pickleball elbow happens when your dominant shots involve swinging the paddle and spins. 

Prevention: 

It’s simple to prevent tennis elbow. Pickleball gear manufacturers build paddles specifically for tennis elbow players, which we tested to minimize the risk of getting Epicondylitis. Also, learn a proper serving action from a coach or senior player. It’ll be enough to keep your elbow functioning properly. Besides, the spin is already banned, and for the paddle swings, the coaches will teach you how to serve the advanced shots while keeping your wrist secure from injuries. 

Even if you don’t have a tennis elbow, play pickleball with elbow braces to guard against any unforeseen damage—especially in tournaments. 

Sprained ankle: 

Sprained ankle in pickleball

A sprained ankle is a widespread sports injury whose risks are present in pickleball too. It happens when you step falsely in the court and get your ankle rolled or twisted. A sprained ankle is a temporary injury and may last for hardly an hour. Patting an ice bag helps get your ankle better quickly. However, there’s no guide to prevent sprained ankles except a good shoe pair because they’re sudden and accidental. 

Heel bruising:

Heel bruising in pickleball

Heel allergy is another rising pickleball injury found among players. Your heel may have internal or external bruises because you’re playing pickleball with your regular running or gym shoes. Initially, you’ll feel stress and irritation around your heel, and if you keep playing with poor shoes and have an improper posture, having all your weight on your feet, you may get wild bruises on your heel. 

Prevention: 

Pickleball seems so easy and fun that players start to play in their regular attire with no gloves, socks, and sports show. While everything is acceptable and risk-free, the shoes have no compromise. You’ve to wear a decent pair of court shoes, pickleball, or shoes every time you play pickleball. 

Wrist fracture:

A wrist fracture is an acute injury, and 90% of the time results from extreme pickleball (tennis elbow). The symptoms may look the same, but your pain and strain are constant when you’ve got a fracture. This is the time you must seek a doctor. Regular massage and exercises won’t help in this case. 

Wrist fracture in pickleball

Wrist fractures are rare, though. Unfortunately, if you got one, consult Ryan R. Karlstad. He’s one of the best specialists in wrist and hand injuries. You can book an appointment with him in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin centers. 

Prevention: 

The best way to prevent a wrist fracture is to prevent tennis elbow. Once your arm and wrist are in perfect movement, there’s no way of any pain or sprain coming near you. 

Chronic Pickleball Injuries:

The above injuries were the ones you can keep under control and prevent easily. The following list–not to scare you–entails the list of injuries that may have a deadly effect on you. These are common in middle-aged players. 

Rotator Cuff Injuries: 

Rotator Cuff Injuries in pickleball

Rotator cuff injury is a shoulder injury—but severe. In medical terms, the rotator cuff is a 4-muscle and tendon group. An injury in the muscles and tendons means soreness and strain, which limits your shoulder movement. The difference between shoulder impingement or sprain and rotator cuff injury is that the latter is more prominent and deadly. While a regular strain may go away with little massage and exercise, rotator cuff injury needs proper surgery. 

If you’re constantly experiencing disturbed sleep, unable to look overhead, and your shoulder isn’t going away despite remedies, consult the doctor immediately because you might have a torn rotator cuff injury or shoulder impingement. Dr. Toure’ (Toure) Barksdale at the Mayo Clinic is a famous doctor who has successfully treated rotator cuff injuries. You can reach him if you’re looking for a doctor. 

Achilles Tendonitis in pickleball

Achilles Tendonitis:

Achilles Tendonitis or tendon rupture is an injury in the tissues connecting calf muscles to the leg’s lower back and heel bone. It’s the rarest pickleball injury and won’t happen unless you’re above 60 or move too much in your game. It can also result from improper dink posture requiring you to bend on your knees. However, if you put too much stress on your legs, you’d put yourself at risk for tendon ruptures. Plus, the symptoms are visible. If you can’t walk on one of your knees, you may be diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis. 

Meniscus tears or Aggravation of Arthritic Knees: 

Have you heard about torn cartilage in the knee? That’s what a meniscus tear is. You’ve torn your cartilage, referring to the same thing as a torn meniscus. Mostly, agile players have this injury. However, it can happen with an awkward toe twist or bending too much for dinking. Plus, there’s no instant effect of meniscus tears on the body. The pain and swelling will usually start after 18 or 24 hours and then stay until you don’t get treatment.

Reasons behind pickleball injuries:

Reasons behind pickleball injuries

The primary reason behind pickleball injuries is a small court, the carelessness of players, and improper gaming techniques. 

This is because of the dilemma of “pickleball is the easiest sport”. It indeed is, but that doesn’t mean you can choose to play pickleball as you like. Like all other sports, it also has rules, gaming tactics, and attires. Playing pickleball in your backyard and grass was tolerable, but playing it in your daily costumes and having no safety gear on might cost you a lot. 

And since it was invented in a family picnic, it’s considered a family-friendly sport, and the rules–who cares? Of course, the rules are boring sometimes, but these help you stay stable in the game while reducing potential risks. Overplaying, excessive wrist movements, wrong postures, and improper serving action lead to pickleball injuries. 

Last is the court size, and that’s not what you may think. The small court isn’t the drawback. In fact, it’s to help people gain the most out of the game “tirelessly,” i.e., you don’t have to run a lot, focus too hard on the ball, or constantly change your position. Whereas the people presume otherwise, and in that tiny space, they try to speed up and stretch too much as if they can extend the space, whereas it’s more about being relaxed and keeping the play moderate. 

The day you’ll disassociate pickleball from tennis and badminton is the day pickleball will get its true exposure for why it was invented and loved by the players. 

However, the kitchen really is a drawback. Having a 7 ft distance and playing dink sometimes get challenging for agile players. No comments on the removal of the kitchen, though. It’s the exclusiveness of pickleball. However, the area can be minimized from 7 to 5 or 4 feet so that the old players can play it with fewer injuries. 

How To Prevent Pickleball Injuries:

Pickleball injuries aren’t much severe. We said it so many times above, and again, it’s about how you take care of yourself. A minor injury can be treated with a bit of rest, which puts a stop to your every athletic activity. However, here are a few measures that will protect your career from ending forever.  

Warm-up and ice down after pickleball: 

Warm-up and ice down after pickleball

Make an ice bag and massage it on your stressed muscle for 10-20 minutes if you’re an agile player or feel tiredness in your muscles after the game. Plus, repeat your warm-up exercises after every match. Consider it a daily routine. Warming up isn’t something new we’re talking about. All the sports have a mandatory warm-up before the play begins. 

We’re just asking you to do the same warm-up after the match, too. It keeps your muscles and tissues flexible and stress-free. Add stretching in the warm-up if you can. For sure, it works like magic. However, in the starting days, the stretching may cause strain, but it goes away after an hour or two, and if it doesn’t, then… 

Hot olive oil massage:

Heat olive alive at a moderate temperature and massage all over your muscles. This helps the tightened muscles go easy in your body and is an instant remedy to heal any sprain, strain, and muscle soreness. You can massage right away after the match or prior to the game. 

Wear court shoes and elbow braces:

elbow braces
Elbow Braces for Pickleball

After the paddle and whiffle ball, the third most crucial gear for pickleball is the pickleball shoe. You can overlook sports clothes, gloves, bags, and so forth, but not shoes. Plus, any court or tennis shoe will work for pickleball unless it’s made of quality, have tackier heels, excellent ankle support, rubber soles, and has a wide toe box. In addition, pickleball braces are for the tennis elbow. Although a lightweight paddle will be enough, we recommend having your braces on your elbows for tournaments since the injuries don’t come informed. 

Don’t overplay:  

Pickleball is addictive–we get it, but overplaying is injurious to you like poison. The consequences won’t be as drastic as poison, but nothing less than that in the long run. Give yourself rest and set your time for playing with sound intervals in them. If you play daily, don’t stay on the court for over an hour. Don’t play under the sun, even if you’re an outdoor play freak. Wait till sundown or go inside. 

RICE protocol: 

RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. The athlete’s rule is to stay consistent in their games and keep the injuries at bay. As you begin the REST protocol and level up the steps, your injury will sort out automatically. The first step is to take a “Rest” from the game. 70% of the time, you’ll be fine after the rest. Second, apply an ice bag for 15-20 minutes. Remember, direct ice on the skin will further disturb your pain. Third, try a bandage. And last, do the elevation, i.e., pit your legs above your heart and lean back. 

Consult a doctor: 

Consult a doctor in pickleball

Last, consult a doctor if your condition isn’t improving by following any of the mentioned self-care and parameters. Immediately. For any deadly sports pickleball injury, the symptoms are always minor initially, and they don’t go away with a remedy quickly. For aches, soreness, and pain in any part of your body, wait 2 days; if it remains the same or increases, see a doctor as soon as possible.  

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe! 

Comparing pickleball head-to-head with other sports concludes the paddle-whiffle ball game still has scattered injuries and risks. Per our analysis, pickleball isn’t a game requiring strenuous efforts, top-notch health, stability, and fitness. Almost 80% of the injuries result from carelessness and improper pickleball tactics. Even those who are severe aren’t in much multiplicity–unless you are conscious and take pickleball injuries seriously. And yes, don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s just a game of pickleball. Have fun, and stay safe! Because it’s not your time to say goodbye to pickleball and any sports you play. 

Robby Anderson

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