By Dr. Ron Patrick, DC, MS Director of Rehabilitation Services DB2 Regeneration Clinics
Pickleball's meteoric rise to popularity in America is hardly surprising. This sport, cleverly blending elements of tennis and ping-pong, not only offers a thrilling and accessible experience for individuals of all ages but also provides an excellent source of exercise. However, like any sport, pickleball carries its fair share of potential injuries. At DB2 Regeneration Clinics, we've joined forces with Paddle Up Pickleball Club (www.paddleuppickleballclub.com) to provide assistance when those injuries arise and, more importantly, to help prevent them. In this article, we'll delve into the realm of common pickleball injuries, unravel the reasons behind their occurrence, and, above all, equip you with invaluable knowledge on how to avert them.
Common Pickleball Injuries
Pickleball's accessibility means that players often underestimate the physical demands, leading to injuries. The most common pickleball injuries involve the knees and lower back, often due to the quick start-stop nature of the game, frequent bending, and the compact court size. Injuries can include:
Calf strains and tears
Flares of knee arthritis
Herniated disks in the lower back
MCL and LCL strains
The upper extremities, including the shoulder, wrist, and elbow, are also vulnerable to injuries such as tennis and golfer's elbow, wrist tendinitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, and labral tears.
While the shoulder can be at risk, pickleball's underhand serve reduces overhead movement, making it more tolerable for individuals with pre-existing shoulder issues. However, players should still exercise caution to prevent overcompensation with other parts of the body.
Additionally, like in any sport, traumatic injuries are possible, such as ocular injuries from direct impact from the paddle or ball, as well as falls resulting in fractures or head trauma.
5 Tips for Minimizing Pickleball Injuries
Pickleball is a fantastic sport for physical and social well-being, provided you follow these guidelines to prevent injuries:
Recognize Physical Limitations: Pickleball attracts a wide audience, but some players may not be as active as they used to be. Listen to your body, especially if you have pre-existing injuries or are prone to arthritis flares. Consider using wrist, knee, or ankle braces to support vulnerable joints.
Make Time for Warm-Up: Prior to engaging in any sport or physical activity, it's crucial to allocate time for a comprehensive and effective warm-up routine. Dedicate at least 5 to 10 minutes to this essential preparation, which should encompass light jogging and dynamic stretching of all major muscle groups, including calves, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, lower back, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Moreover, it's important to integrate sport-specific warm-up exercises that mimic the movements you'll be performing during the activity.
Dynamic stretching, a key component of this warm-up, stands in contrast to static stretching. Unlike static stretches that involve holding positions for an extended period, dynamic stretches involve a series of movements, aligning your body with the specific physical demands of the sport. For instance, dynamic stretches may entail exercises like lunges with a torso twist or leg swings against a wall.
Professional athletes, be they Olympic swimmers, runners, or tennis players, rarely engage in static stretching before their events. Instead, their pre-game routines are dynamic and geared towards invigorating muscles, unlocking joints, and priming ligaments for movement. Reserve static stretching for your post-activity cool-down. For more information, please see our blog regarding the nuances of dynamic stretching vs static stretching.
Use the Right Equipment: Invest in tennis or pickleball-specific shoes for better support and court traction, reducing the risk of ankle sprains and Achilles injuries. Choose a paddle with a properly sized handle to minimize wrist and elbow injuries.
Don't Ignore Your Form: Correct form is crucial. Incorporate energy from the legs, specifically from the hips, to generate power and reduce strain on other body parts. Consider taking pickleball lessons to ensure proper technique and footwork.
Know the Role of Exercise Recovery: Following your game, it's essential to implement a proper cool-down routine. Begin with a few minutes of gentle walking, gradually easing your body out of the intense activity. During this phase, consider a combination of dynamic and static stretching to aid in minimizing muscle soreness and promote flexibility. Remember that some degree of muscle soreness is natural, but effective stretching and warm-up techniques can help alleviate it. Furthermore, optimizing your nutrition and hydration is crucial for a full recovery. Don't underestimate the value of taking breaks to allow your body to recuperate fully. In case you experience lingering tightness or discomfort around your joints, you might want to consider icing the affected area for 15-30 minute intervals, typically 2-3 times in the evening before bedtime, as this can help reduce any inflammation that may have developed.
What to Do If You Experience a Pickleball Injury
In case of injury, it's vital not to rush back into the game. Following the RICE technique (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) in the short term can provide initial relief. However, if symptoms persist or become more serious, seeking the attention of a trained medical professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
At DB2 Regeneration Clinics, we specialize in the evaluation and treatment of sports-related injuries. Our multidisciplinary approach is at the forefront of medical science, employing cutting-edge techniques such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP), cellular therapy, viscosupplementation, and injury-specific rehabilitation. We ensure the most effective delivery of care by utilizing advanced imaging, ultrasound, or fluoroscopy guidance for all treatments. Notably, there is no need for a referral, and our treatments typically involve minimal downtime, allowing you to return to the court faster.
In conclusion, while pickleball is a fantastic sport, it's essential to be aware of potential injuries and take preventive measures. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy this engaging sport without the worry of common pickleball injuries. Stay safe, stay active, and play your best game! Go see our friends at Paddle Up Pickleball Club in Lake St. Louis, MO. DB2 Regeneration recommends this beautiful indoor facility for all our patients.
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(Source: The Pickleball Doctor).
(Vitale, Kenneth MD, FACSM, & Liu, Steven BS, Current Sports Medicine Reports, 19(10), 406-413, October 2020, DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000759)