Pickleball is a huge craze. In fact, it is often described as America’s fastest growing sport. 

It is estimated there are 8.9 million pickleballers in the U.S. This represents a growth of 159% over the last three years. While it is slightly more popular among men (61 percent), women (39 percent) are also enjoying this fun, social game.

Like any new sport or trendy activity, many individuals jump into it quickly and don’t really get themselves ready. As a result, injuries can happen.

Most common pickleball injuries

The most common injuries from pickleball are overuse injuries or injuries due to lack of training. When an individual hasn’t engaged in a sport previously, their body might not be ready for that level of vigorous exercise. That can lead to sprains and strains. 

Pickleball is a “bursting” kind of activity. Players go from standing still to lunging to hit a ball. In that process, if you’re not adequately stretched out that’s when you are most at risk for injury. 

  • Strained calf muscles and ankle sprains are common pickleball injuries. 
  • Knee injuries and meniscus tears can occur from twisting during play. 
  • More severe injuries such as a torn Achilles tendon can also happen. 
  • Overuse injuries in the upper body also may occur. Those include rotator cuff injuries from swinging a racket or tennis elbow (lateral condolitis) from gripping the racket too tightly. 

How to prevent pickleball injuries

The most important thing you can do is to warm up before you start a game.

  • Be sure to stretch your calf muscles. Place your hands against a wall and lean with your foot flat to stretch those muscles. 
  • You should also stretch your quadriceps – the muscles in your upper legs. You can either sit or stand to do those. 
  • Do some jumping jacks or jog in place just to get the blood flowing. This will help get your muscles warmed up before you do explosive movements. It’s those movements that will cause a tear if your muscles aren’t warmed up and ready. 
  • It’s also important to stretch your arms and shoulders before playing because they’re getting a workout too. 
  • Supportive shoes are equally important. You want tennis shoes that are non-slip and also support your ankles.
  • In colder weather, be sure you wear adequate clothing. It’s even more important to stretch and warm up when it’s cold out because cold muscles are more prone to tearing and straining.

Treating injuries

If you feel tight or sore that night or the next day, that’s often a sign of overuse. These injuries can be safely treated at home using the RICE method – rest, ice, compression, elevation. You can learn more about that treatment in this post.

On the other hand, if you get a twinge of pain or feel a pop while playing, that’s a sign something significant is happening. Call your doctor or visit an urgent care center to get checked. 

So go ahead and join the pickleball craze, or whatever other sport you enjoy! Just be sure to prepare your body for the workout. 

For more tips on staying active and preventing injuries, visit the Moving section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog. 

Michael Staebler, MD

Dr. Michael Staebler is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Lifespan Orthopedics Institute at Newport Hospital. He specializes in operative and nonoperative treatment of sports injuries in children and adults.