Pickleball popularity has exploded in the past 5 years. If you hadn’t heard of the sport before 2020 you are not alone. Between 2019 and 2022, the sport saw a 159% increase in popularity with the number of players surging from 3.5 million to 8.9 million in 2022 (1). The sport, which can be described as a cross between tennis, table tennis, and badminton, is fun, fast- paced and with the smaller court size can require significantly less running than traditional tennis. At this point, pickleball has been on the rise in all age groups with US pickleball reporting that the average age of core players (playing > 8 times a year) is 49.5 years old, and the average age of casual players being 34.5 years old but this may continue to drop as the largest age group entering the sport being < 24 years old (1).
Even with pickleball being described as a low impact sport, it can still require the body to move quickly and in new ways. With the number of people participating in pickleball comes an increase in the number of injuries reported. In a recent Forbes article, they state “—according to UBS analysts, who released a note Monday estimating Americans will spend between $250 million and $500 million in costs tied to pickle injuries this year.” (2) They elaborate most of this will occur with outpatient visits - either primary care or orthopedic specialists (2). The most common injuries are sprains/strains of the lower extremity, followed by sprains/strains of the upper extremity and injuries of the trunk and low back. (3)
The question becomes how to prevent this from happening to new and returning players?
1. Pick a group that is of similar skill and intensity level: playing with seasoned players who are more aggressive or expect more from a new player may push you too far. Pickle ball can be very fast moving depending on your opponent.
2. Complete a warm up: It is important to not start exercises when your muscles are cold. An active warm up can increase blood flow to muscles, decrease the chance of injury, and assist with flexibility. Follow along to our YouTube link for ideas
3. Cool down: stretching muscles in both your arms and legs can decrease muscle soreness from muscle burn and decrease tightness
4. Consider adding strengthening and balance into your exercise routine off the court
• Band ER/IR
As with all good things in life, nothing is without risk; always check with your medical doctors before initiating new activities if you are not sure if you are ready to participate. As always, remember to have fun and don’t get pickled!