Most Common Pickleball Injuries

14 Most Common Pickleball Injuries

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Medically reviewed by Misty Seidenburg

Pickleball has been sweeping the nation in recent years, and for good reason, it’s loads of fun for individuals of all ages. Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, but there are many common pickleball injuries physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for.

Before beginning any type of exercise or stretching routine, you should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. Take a look at some interesting facts about pickleball, see why it’s an emerging sport, and learn how physical therapy can help you alleviate pickleball-related pain and injuries.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines some of the best elements from some of the other sports or games you might already be familiar with including badminton, table tennis/ping-pong, and tennis. Pickleball is played on a court that has the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court with a net that is similar in style and design to a tennis net. The key difference for the net is that it’s mounted two inches lower.

Pickleball is played with two uniquely designed paddles made up of wood or composite materials and a plastic ball that is similar to a wiffle ball in nature. One of the many great things about pickleball is that it can be played as a single or with a partner in doubles, and is a great way to get active and engage with individuals of all ages and athletic abilities. Pickleball can also be a great way to get a workout in. Pickleball is a highly social sport and can be a great new activity to add to your routine to meet new folks and engage in a fun and competitive emerging sport.

Pickleball Popularity Continues to Rise

Over the last several years, Pickleball participation and popularity has risen over 158.6 percent and shows no signs of slowing down. Pickleball is a great sport for individuals of all athletic levels and ages to participate in and one of the many reasons that the sport continues to rise in popularity is due to its low barrier to entry and easy-to-understand rule set. Labeled as the fastest-growing sport in the USA, an estimated 36 million individuals are active Pickleball players.

While Pickleball is growing in popularity for individuals of all ages and athletic levels, one of the largest demographic groups for Pickleball participants are individuals age 55 and up. Players between the ages of 18 and 34 make up the second largest demographic with the average age being just over 38 years old. The number of Pickleball courts across the nation also continues to rise and local clubs and communities continue to invest in building their own Pickleball courts and facilities.

If you’re interested in picking up a sport that’s rapidly growing, the Pickleball sensation shows no signs of slowing down.

Pickleball Injury Statistics

Pickleball’s popularity continues to rise, but injuries are a part of any sport, including Pickleball. A 2021 study from UBS analysts predicted that Pickleball injuries would rise to nearly $400 million in healthcare costs. From 2010 to 2019, greater than 85% most Pickleball-related injuries were in individuals over the age of 60 and most were non-life-threatening injuries.

Most Common Pickleball Injuries

In the 2021 study that looked at Pickleball injuries from 2010 to 2019, the leading injuries were sprains or strains and contusions. Take a look at some of the most common Pickleball injuries below.

Sprains

A sprain can occur when a ligament is stretched or twisted. As an example, when a Pickleball player accidentally twists their ankle while stumbling to return a volley back and forth.

Strains

Strains can occur when muscles or tendons are overstretched, torn, or overused. This injury often occurs when athletes push themselves past their limitations and overwork their muscles.

Achilles Tendinopathy

Achilles Tendinopathy is an injury occurs on the back of the calf just above the heel and towards the lower portion of your leg. This pain typically occurs after running, jumping, climbing stairs, or sprinting. Achilles Tendinopathy can develop from all of the sudden starts, stops, shuffling, and movement from several rounds of Pickleball.

Hip Injuries

Some of the most common hip injuries in Pickleball can occur from muscle strains for the hip flexor, hamstring, or glutes. Inflammation of an underlying hip injury or hip arthritis can also develop. Another common reason for a hip injury could be a stumble on the court when a player lands on a hip from a fall to the court surface.

Hand Injuries

While the light plastic ball used to play Pickleball isn’t very heavy, it can still smack your hand and cause a hand injury. Hand injuries can also occur from a collision with another player or paddle. In addition, hand injuries can occur over the course of a round from a fall as you try to catch yourself going to the ground, accidentally jamming a finger, or from repetitive use and motion during a match.

Bone Fractures

One of the most common Pickleball injuries that sends individuals to an outpatient facility, urgent care clinic, or the emergency room are bone fractures. Fractures can occur from a variety of reasons but one of the most common reasons is due to a fall sustained on the court.

Ankle Injuries

Rolled ankles, sprains as mentioned above, or a contusion can occur throughout the course of match as you run back and forth on the court.

Lower Back Injuries

Another common Pickleball injury that can occur are back injuries. All the rapid shifts in movement, the hunched-over position as you’re in a ready-stance, or awkward movements throughout the course of a match can cause back pain. Lower back injuries can also occur from falls sustained on the court or overuse during the match.

Falls

Falling can be common in Pickleball as you reach to return a volley, lose your footing, or change directions quickly which can offset your balance and send you to the ground. While there might be some give in the surface you’re playing on, regulation Pickleball courts can be hard surfaces which can cause nasty falls or lead to one of the many other common injuries we’ve mentioned.

Elbow Injuries

Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow can be common injuries reported from Pickleball enthusiasts. Gripping the Pickleball paddle and repeatedly swinging and bending your elbow with force can cause wear and tear over time.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Pickleball serves and volleys might not require as much force as other sports like Tennis, but they do require utilization of your shoulder in the same repetitive swinging motions over the course of a match. Rotator cuff injuries can occur from overuse during games or inflame previous injuries.

Calf Injuries

Calf injuries can occur from the sudden changes in direction or movement during a match. Most often, a strained calf can occur from the wear and tear on the muscles. Last minute sprints to return the ball during a volley can be common culprits for a calf injury.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries can flare up over time from all the rapid starts and stops during a match along with tumbles, scrapes, and bruises. In addition, those who have had previous knee injuries or arthritis can have inflammation flare ups.

Wrist Injuries

Repetitive swing and striking motions can cause wrist injuries as the wrist will be pushed to the brink during a Pickleball match. Wrist injuries can also occur as you attempt to brace yourself from a fall or get hit by a teammate’s paddle as you compete for the same ball in a volley.

Steps to Take to Avoid Pickleball Injuries

Now that you’re more familiar with some of the most common Pickleball injuries, there are several things you can do before, during, and after your next Pickleball session to limit potential Pickleball injuries.

Seek Physical Therapy Treatment for Injuries, Aches, and Pains

Pickleball injuries can be addressed and treated with physical therapy. An overwhelming amount of Pickleball-related injuries are outpatient injuries that can benefit from physical therapy and the more intensive injuries that require surgical intervention can also be benefited by physical therapy treatment afterwards as you work to get back to the Pickleball court.

Physical therapy can help you address pickleball-related injuries, aches, and pains from underlying muscular imbalances, improper technique, poor range of motion, improper form, and other relevant risk factors.

Our physical therapists will work with you to identify underlying concerns and work to address those issues throughout the course of care. Physical therapy can also help you reduce the likelihood of future injuries from occurring.

Pickleball athletes who are looking to improve their game and athletic performance can also benefit from physical therapy as our trained physical therapists are movement experts who can help you improve your ability to perform many of the Pickleball-related movements and activities. If you’re struggling with certain movements or exercises, PT can help you alleviate pain, restore function, build muscle, and improve range of motion which is essential to having a good performance and an entertaining Pickleball match.

Stay Hydrated

The next thing you can do to avoid Pickleball injuries is to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of hydration. All forms of exercise, including Pickleball, require that you’re supplementing the energy you’re exerting with adequate nutrition and hydration so your body can perform at its peak. Sip plenty of liquids before, during, and after your Pickleball session to ensure you’re fueling your body properly.

Use Proper Equipment, Clothing, and Shoes

The next thing that can help you avoid many of the common Pickleball injuries above is to use proper equipment and wear proper clothing and footwear. Try to find clothing that is lose enough to allow free movement with a proper fit so you don’t get tangled up or constricted if the clothing is too large or too small respectively. Proper footwear can also play a big role in making sure you’re able to perform many of the starts, stops, and shuffle movements that are required during a Pickleball match. Proper shoes and footwear can help you find steady footing and support without needing to worry about rolling an ankle or sliding all over the court during an intense volley.

Exercise Regularly

In addition to your Pickleball matches, you should make it a priority to exercise regularly to help your body build both strength and endurance for your Pickleball matches. Exercise is an important component to staying healthy and you should strive to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

Know Your Limits

The next thing you can do to reduce the likelihood of a Pickleball injury is to be mindful of your limitations. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break when you need to or asking your playing partners for a rest when you begin to feel tired or sore. Pushing past your limits may lead to burnout or an injury, so listen to your body and know when to dial it back as needed.

Clear the Court

Ensuring a clear and clean playing surface is important to reduce the number of potential injuries for all players. Before playing, make sure there aren’t any obstructions in and around the playing surface. You should also take some time to inspect the playing surface itself to remove any gravel, rocks, or debris that has accrued which can make the surface slick or dangerous to play on. If the playing surface has cracks or other areas of concern, you should try to avoid playing on it and let maintenance staff know so that it can be remedied in the future. Playing on a clean and safe surface is essential to having a good time and avoiding many of the common Pickleball injuries above.

Implement a Light Warmup and Stretching Period

The next thing you can do to reduce the likelihood of a Pickeball injury is to implement a light warmup and stretching period. A light warmup and stretching session before your next Pickleball session can help your body prepare for the rigorous activity you’re about to place on it.

Focus on Form

One of the many great things about Pickleball is that you don’t need to be the strongest or the fastest to find success. Most of the time it’s about effective strategy and proper form. Focus on playing with proper form and technique instead of trying to crush the ball back and forth each time.

Treat Pickleball Injuries with Physical Therapy

Pickleball is a fun and emerging sport across the nation, but like any sport, injuries can happen. The good news is that physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for Pickelball-related aches and injuries. Whether you’re looking to optimize your Pickleball performance, reduce the likelihood of Pickleball injuries, or seek to alleviate pain, our licensed and trained physical therapists can help you address Pickleball injuries.

Find a nearby physical therapy clinic and request an appointment to recover from Pickleball injuries.

 

  1. SFIA Topline Report Tabs Pickleball as America’s Fastest-Growing Sport for Third Consecutive Year – USA Pickleball. 22 Feb. 2023, usapickleball.org/news/sfia-topline-report-tabs-pickleball-as-americas-fastest-growing-sport/.
  2. Golden, Jessica. “Pickleball Popularity Exploded Last Year, with More than 36 Million Playing the Sport.” CNBC, 5 Jan. 2023, www.cnbc.com/2023/01/05/pickleball-popularity-explodes-with-more-than-36-million-playing.html.
  3. “Pickleball Statistics – the Numbers behind America’s Fastest Growing Sport in 2023.” Pickleheads, www.pickleheads.com/blog/pickleball-statistics#pickleball-demographics-players-by-age.
  4. Meyersohn, Nathaniel. “Pickleball Injuries May Cost Americans Nearly $400 Million This Year | CNN Business.” CNN, 27 June 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/06/27/business/pickleball-injuries-cost-health-care/index.html.
  5. Weiss, Harold, et al. “Non-Fatal Senior Pickleball and Tennis-Related Injuries Treated in United States Emergency Departments, 2010–2019.” Injury Epidemiology, vol. 8, no. 1, May 2021, https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-021-00327-9.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Move More; Sit Less.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Mar. 2022, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm#:~:text=Each%20week%20adults%20need%20150.
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Medically reviewed by

Misty Seidenburg

Vice President of Clinical Programs

Dr. Misty Seidenburg has been a practicing physical therapist since 2006 after obtaining her Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Gannon University. Dr. Seidenburg completed an Orthopedic Residency in 2009 and subsequent Spine Fellowship in 2010 where she discovered a passion for educating clinicians. Since 2019, she has developed and refined several post-professional residency and fellowship programs and currently serves as the Vice President of Clinical Programs for Upstream Rehab Institute. She serves on several APTA committees to help advance the profession, is adjunct faculty at Messiah University, and is also a senior instructor and course developer for the Institute of Advanced Musculoskeletal Treatments with a special interest in exercise integration. Outside of work, she enjoys challenging herself with new adventures and is currently competing as an endurance athlete.

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