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Pickleball – Why it Hurts, so Good.


Pickleball injuries and prevention

When I first started playing Pickleball, the most common words I spoke were serve, kitchen, lob, in and out, and maybe an occasional “let it bounce!”. Now, after more than a year of playing regularly two, three, sometimes four times a week, there are a bunch of new words I have adapted into my common vernacular. Advil, Motrin, Tylenol, Aleve, and Ice pack are now spoken as frequently by me as any other.


There are days when I have a match scheduled I wake up in the morning and when I take those first few steps from the bed I wonder, how the hell am I going to play today? Everything just hurts like crap. I ask myself, Is this worth it? What am I going to hurt today? But fortunately, once the joint popping and bone creaking subsides, and I get my big coffee with a 500mg Tylenol chaser kicking in, I get that second wind and suit up. I joyfully grab my paddle and I am out the door ready to take on the World. I love Pickleball, but damn, it just hurts so good.


Anyone who has been around the sport of Pickleball knows there is a price we all pay to play this demanding sport. Those first few weeks of playing we get out there running around like joyful puppies, swinging away, banging away, chasing those shots the more experienced players had already learned to file in the “JNFWI”category as I call it. Otherwise know as the Just Not Freaking Worth It category. I discovered that few introduction classes advertised or spent more than a few moments discussing on court safety, and how to prep and maintain our bodies for the coming stresses of competitive play. Too often, it was that fall backwards, blown out knee, or devastating hit to the face I witnessed or experienced, which woke me up to the painful realities of Pickleball.

 

A leading cause of so many injuries in Pickleball lies in its accessibility to players of all ages, and fitness levels. The game offers numerous physical and mental health benefits, but players must be aware of the risks they face on the court. Bodies that are not tuned to be sliding, reaching, twisting, diving, and shuffling are suddenly being asked to do these things it maybe hasn’t in decades. A recipe for trouble. And as the number of pickleball enthusiasts continues to grow, so is the concern about injuries associated with the game.

 

While there are numerous medical studies detailing the rise of injuries related to Pickleball, most players witness the growing trend from the anecdotal evidence from stories overheard on the courts or from their own visits to the chiropractor and sports medicine professionals. “I went to the chiropractor to get my shoulder checked out, and I ran into two people in the waiting room who also were there because of Pickleball. We all agreed to get together for a game later today!” This was the sarcastic and revealing comment recently posted on a Pickleball social platform. “It’s gotten to a point that when someone walks through the doors complaining about a knee, back, elbow, and wrist pain, the next word that comes out of the client’s mouth is usually Pickleball.” Are how the chuckles started among the staff I overheard at Johns Hopkins Sports Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Jennifer Grear, PT, DPT., a Physical Therapist treating patients since 2002, has no doubt the growing popularity of Pickleball has dramatically increased the number of serious injuries visiting her office. “We can’t keep up with the calls sometimes of patients in need of help. We are seeing a huge increase of patients suffering from tendinitis, sprains and tears, herniated discs, stress fractures, and it is all directly related to their playing Pickleball.”


Pickleball news and information

All the preparation and training in the world can’t prevent those injuries that are just going to happen when that weak spot in our bodies just gives out. But there are several basic things players can incorporate into their playing regime to help reduce the likelihood of that happening. I discovered these helpful prevention strategies online and they have helped me be more prepared before playing.


  • A thorough warm-up to prepare muscles and joints for the game. An easy jog or a 30-minute bike ride may be a helpful activity before stepping on the court.


  • Learn the proper techniques of Pickleball from a certified Pro for serving, volleying, and moving on the court. Seek guidance from more experienced players or coaches and learn to recognize those Just Not Worth It moments. Know your limitations and stay in your comfort zones.


  • Be knowledgeable of the best equipment for Pickleball. Join social groups to read reviews from coaches and other players. Invest in proper shoes with good support and traction. Ensure your paddle is the right one for your skill level and is the right size and weight for your abilities.


  • Listen to your body. Pain is a message that something is not right, and we need to address it. STOP PLAYING if you experience new any new, unusual, and severe pain. Make sure your playing location has proper emergency medical plan and equipment, and the staff is trained properly to respond to an emergency.


I hope the possible risks of playing Pickleball wouldn’t discourage anyone from discovering this amazing sport. Everything has its risks, and Pickleball is a fantastic way to stay active, be fit, and be part of a community to satisfy the important need we have to socialize. We all have a responsibility to help the newer players to be alerted to the common dangers of the game. Let us all share in teaching them how to prioritize their safety, and the safety of others with whom they share the court. By understanding the risks and adopting proven preventive measures, we all can continue enjoying the growth of this exciting sport without compromising our well-being.

 

Play on Friends, Play on. Every day we can play is a blessing.

 

The Author is a first-time contributor to the PickleMeSilly blog. The author is not a medical professional, and all information in this article are suggestions from personal experience. The contents are not intended to be a prescribed routine to prevent injuries. Please consult with your doctor and professional therapists for a health and prevention plan specifically designed for you. The author requested we post this article anonymously.

If you would like to contribute content for our consideration, please email us at Social@Picklemesilly.com.  

 

 

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