Pickleball offers a fun and engaging way to stay active and socialize with others. However, the physical demands of pickleball, like any athletic activity, can sometimes lead to injuries if players are not mindful of their approach. In order to keep the game enjoyable and minimize the risk of injury, it is important for players to understand the common types of injuries associated with the sport and learn effective prevention strategies.

In this post, we’ll talk about the anatomy of pickleball injuries, providing valuable insights on how to avoid these setbacks through proper technique, conditioning, and equipment selection.

Common Pickleball Injuries

Playing pickleball delivers several benefits. For instance, it can improve mental health and enhance social life. Nonetheless, it also comes with risks, especially if you’re a beginner. The same is also true if you aren’t cautious about how you play. Below are the most common injuries.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments supporting the ankle joint are stretched or torn, often due to sudden twisting or rolling movements. Pain, swelling, bruising, and limited range of motion in the affected ankle are the most common signs of a sprain. To help prevent ankle sprains, players should focus on maintaining proper footwork, engaging in ankle-strengthening exercises, and wearing supportive footwear with good traction.

Tennis Elbow

Also called lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is caused by overuse and repetitive strain on the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle, the bony prominence on the outer side of the elbow. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the outer elbow, weakness in the wrist, and reduced grip strength. To avoid tennis elbow, players should practice proper paddle grip techniques, incorporate forearm-strengthening exercises, and consider using a lighter paddle with a comfortable grip size.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Excessive stress or strain on the group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint can trigger rotator cuff injuries. This can lead to inflammation, tears, or impingement.  Common signs of this injury include shoulder pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. According to Pickleballunion.com, while rotator cuff injuries can happen, in most cases, it’s only a shoulder strain. When it happens repeatedly, however, the condition can get worse.

Knee Injuries

Patellar tendonitis and other knee injuries occur due to repetitive stress on the knee joint from jumping, landing, or changing directions quickly. It can lead to pain and swelling around the kneecap, stiffness, and difficulty with activities that require bending the knee. To minimize the risk of knee injuries, players should maintain proper footwork and body mechanics, engage in lower-body strengthening and flexibility exercises, and wear supportive footwear.

Proper Technique to Avoid Injuries

Proper footwork is crucial for maintaining balance and preventing awkward movements that can lead to injury. Mastering the split-step technique allows players to react quickly and efficiently to incoming shots while emphasizing lateral movement can help avoid overreaching or twisting the ankles and knees.

An appropriate paddle grip is essential to reduce strain on the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. The Eastern grip is commonly used for forehand shots and allows for better control and power, while the Continental grip is effective for backhand shots and serves.

More so, correct swing mechanics play a significant role in reducing the risk of muscle strains and joint injuries. For forehand shots, players should focus on generating power from their core and hips. When executing a backhand, it is important to engage the core and use the non-dominant hand for support. Finally, when performing an overhead smash, players should utilize proper body rotation and full arm extension to generate power.

Conditioning to Reduce Injury Risk

Cardiovascular exercises, such as running, swimming, or cycling, can enhance endurance and enable players to maintain their energy levels throughout matches. Incorporating these activities into a weekly routine can help prevent fatigue-related injuries on the court.

Strength training is crucial for building and maintaining muscle mass, which can protect joints and ligaments from excessive stress during play. Focusing on exercises that target key muscle groups involved in pickleball, such as the shoulders, forearms, core, and legs, can contribute to a more stable and powerful performance.

Further, flexibility and balance exercises, including yoga, Pilates, or stretching, can help improve a player’s range of motion and body control. These activities can also reduce the risk of muscle strains and ligament sprains, as they promote better overall movement and coordination on the court. Incorporating regular flexibility and balance training into a fitness routine can keep players agile and less prone to injuries.

Equipment Selection for Injury Prevention

Using the right footwear is critical in providing stability, support, and protection for the feet and ankles during play. It is essential to choose shoes specifically designed for pickleball or similar court sports, as they offer the necessary traction and durability for the unique movements involved in the game. Key features to look for include lateral support, cushioning, and non-marking outsoles to prevent slipping and potential ankle injuries.

Selecting the right paddle is equally important in preventing injuries related to overuse or improper technique. Factors to consider when choosing a paddle include weight, balance, and grip size. A lighter paddle can help reduce strain on the arm and shoulder muscles, while a well-balanced paddle can improve control and accuracy during play.

Additionally, finding a grip size and material that comfortably fits the player’s hand can minimize the risk of developing issues such as tennis elbow or wrist pain. It is essential to try various options and find the paddle that best suits the individual’s needs and preferences to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the court.

Final Thoughts

Injury prevention is essential for pickleball players to fully enjoy the sport and maintain long-term health. By implementing proper techniques, incorporating regular conditioning exercises, and selecting appropriate equipment, players can reduce their risk of injury and continue to experience the many benefits that pickleball has to offer.

Click here for full podcast playlist.