Most Common Pickleball Injuries

Sports Injuries

Jan 28, 2023


Pickleball has hit the big time, which means that the most common pickleball injuries are becoming more frequent around here at Complete Care. The sport — which is basically ping pong on a tennis court — is the fastest growing sport in America, meaning that people of all ages are dusting off their cross trainers and picking up a paddle. 

While pickleball injury statistics have yet to catch up with the post-pandemic boom in play, the Journal of Emergency Medicine estimated that 19,000 pickleball injuries occurred in 2017, and we can tell you from experience that that number is a lot higher now. 

Pickleball’s broad appeal and small learning curve are likely the reason for its popularity and its significant injury risks; anyone can pick up a paddle and play, heedless of proper stretching, technique, or hydration. The good news is this: Complete Care is here for you, pickleballers, to treat those injuries — and to hopefully help you avoid them.

The most common pickleball injuries and how you get them

The most common pickleball injuries are sprains, strains, and tears to the back, legs, shoulders, wrists, and elbows. Also common to pickleball, and outdoor sports in general, are heatstroke and dehydration. 

Sprains, strains, and tears

Sprains, strains, and tears can occur from pickleball falls but are more commonly sustained when you overstretch your body. These injuries can range from mild inconveniences all the way to surgery-requiring life changers. Some more common sprains, strains, and tears that result from pickleball play include:

  • Calf strains and tears
  • Knee strains and tears
  • Meniscus tears
  • PCL, ACL, and MCL strains (Continue reading: ACL vs MCL tear)
  • Hamstring strains
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Achilles strains
  • Ankle, wrist, and foot sprains

Overextension injuries are common on the court and can become nagging, chronic conditions if you’re not careful about your recovery. So, if you’re wondering “should I go to the ER for knee pain?” after an afternoon of dinking and diving, the answer may be “yes.”

Repetitive use injuries

Repetitive use injuries are also common on the court — after all, they did name tendinitis in the elbow “tennis elbow” — and it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable emergence of “pickleball wrist.” Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) can occur in any muscles, nerves, ligaments, or tendons, but the ones most specific to pickleball include:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Wrist tendinitis (what we’re calling “pickleball wrist”)
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis

Repetitive strain injuries might have you saying goodbye to your pro career as well as your doubles partner. Like sprains, strains, and tears, RSIs can threaten the basic function of the affected area if not given the proper treatment and care. 

Is pickleball hard on your body?

This is a difficult question. Pickleball is certainly easier on the body than tennis, but it does come with its fair share of risk. 

Executing a pickleball swing takes far less exertion than a tennis swing, but requires more energy from your wrists. The court is smaller, which means far less running around, overheating, and joint strain — but pickleball is almost always played on unforgiving hard concrete surfaces instead of soft clay. You could play doubles instead of singles, which reduces the amount of ground that you have to cover and therefore reduces the risk of overextension, but then you might bump heads with your partner and injure yourself. 

There is almost always a trade-off. Fun, low-cost exercise it seems cannot come without its inherent risks. But there is one thing that you can do: prepare properly. 

How to prevent pickleball injuries

All sports are, to some degree, hard on your body. But the body is a miraculous thing, and it can be quite resilient if we give it the chance. Some simple ways to make sure you spend more time on the court and less time on the injured list include:

  1. Being realistic about your physical limits. If you’re exhausted, take a water break. Sit down for a few minutes if your ankle or knee feels uncomfortable or tight, and don’t be afraid to adjourn the game until a later date. There will always be more pickleball in the future, as long as you take care of yourself.
  2. Warming up (stretch, stretch, stretch). Figure out a warm-up routine that works for you and stick to it. Stretch for a few minutes and jog the perimeter a few times. Don’t dive right into competition when you hit the court, instead start with 5-10 minutes of low-stress volleys until everyone is ready to move.
  3. Learning proper form. In the heat of a game, it can be difficult to remember that your legs, back, and arms have limitations. Learn how to break back to midcourt, sell out for a save, or dive into the kitchen without putting yourself at risk.
  4. Not skimping on the sneakers. An investment in a good pair of tennis shoes will make a world of difference. Your old cross trainers almost certainly do not have proper support for stopping on a dime at the kitchen line, keeping that ankle in place.
  5. Learning how to recover. From cooldown time to icing sore knees, what you do after you leave the court can be as vital to your health as what you do on the court. Make sure you’re keeping hydrated, eating enough nutrients, and fully recovering before you head back out there.

Following these simple rules can help you avoid sprains, dehydration, most types of back pain that come from jumping around on the concrete court, and more. Sometimes small injuries are unavoidable, and tweaks are bound to happen, but you can rest assured that the personal and professional staff at Complete Care are here to help. 

Most common pickleball injuries can be treated at Complete Care

Although sprains, strains, and RSIs can become serious problems on the court, most common pickleball injuries are nothing to fear if you prepare yourself correctly. When injuries do happen, have a plan in place for treatment and recovery, and don’t stress too much about who was winning when you got taken out.

Complete Care’s 24-hour imaging center can ensure that you get the quick diagnosis and treatment plan that you need for recovery, whether you were up for the first serve at 5 AM or burning the midnight oil. Any time, any day, any of our Complete Care free-standing ERs are ready to get you back on the court as fast as possible. 

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