Pickleball Injury Prevention

woman playing pickleball

Posted 2/25/2022

How to stay in play and on the court

What is pickleball? And why are people raving about it?

Pickleball is an improvisation of badminton and ping-pong. The game is played on a court using a softball-sized, hard-plastic ball with holes – like a wiffle ball – and paddles similar to table-tennis paddles.

Conceived in 1965 as a game that families could play together, pickleball grew in popularity. By 1972, a corporation was founded for the sport.

While there is debate around the origin of its name, there is none about how fun, fast, competitive and entertaining the game is.

With a smaller court size than its cousin sport of tennis, it’s an ideal way to stay active and fit for just about anyone.

And pickleball has taken the country by storm.

The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976 in Washington State. And while not what’s called an overnight sensation, the explosive growth of the game in the years since has led to pickleball courts popping up everywhere, and the formation of amateur and professional leagues.

There’s even a professional pickleball tour.

When injury puts you in a pickle

With the rise in popularity of pickleball, physical therapists throughout the country are seeing an increase in injuries that are similar to those found in other racquet sports.

New pickleball players sustain approximately 50% of injuries during their first year of play.

The most common pickleball injuries include:

  • Pickleball elbow
  • Ankle sprains
  • Knee sprains
  • Shoulder sprains
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Wrist fractures
  • Concussions from falls

In the case of older players, many are predisposed to injury, often due to prior injury, limited flexibility and range of motion and deterioration of balance, or have recurrent injuries.

So if you are looking to start playing the game … or stay in the game … keep these prevention tips in mind to reduce your risk and avoid injury:

Warm up   Pickleball is a fast-paced game, and the excitement starts right away. So it's important that you warm up before you get on the court. Try a light 5-minute jog, a slow walk with high knees or some side shuffles to loosen up.

Stretch   As part of your warm-up, make sure to stretch. Shoulder stretches, calf stretches, hamstring/quad stretches and wrist and neck stretches are all important to incorporate into your routine.

Choose proper footwear   Pickleball requires moving side to side and back and forth. Choose a good fitting athletic shoe for this type of movement.

Pivot   Similar to tennis and other racquet sports, you will be executing groundstrokes, volleys and serves. Remember to pivot your hips and shoulders as you face the approaching ball.

If you are injured, stop playing!

Don’t try to tough it out, especially if it is a head injury.

Contact a physical therapist to help you heal and recover before you return to play.

Pickleball is as fun as it sounds, and you’ll want to play for years to come.

If you’re in a pickle with pain or injury of any sort, click now to request an appointment to find one of our centers near you.

By: Deborah Santiago, P.T., DPT. Deborah is a physical therapist and center manager at NovaCare Rehabilitation in New Jersey. NovaCare and Saco Bay Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.

Select Medical is proud to be the official physical therapy partner of the PPA Tour.