It’s widely considered the fastest-growing sport in America. A cross between tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, pickleball is taking the senior communities by storm. Invented in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington, pickleball is providing older adults with hours of competitive fun and exercise. But, unfortunately, along with being the fastest-growing sport, it’s also responsible for the fastest-growing number of injuries among older people.
Pickleball is responsible for roughly 19,000 injuries every year. Common injuries include muscle strains, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, wrist fractures, and plantar fasciitis. In addition, because the sport is relatively easy to pick up without much experience, it’s common for older adults to overexert themselves and create bad habits that ultimately lead to poor technique and footwork. And because you use your whole body, legs, back, shoulders, elbows, and wrists, you’re more prone to overuse injuries.
Playing pickleball is a great, low-impact exercise for older adults. It benefits your physical and social well-being when played correctly and safely. Here are some steps to help you avoid pickleball injuries.
Take Time to Warm-Up
As with any exercise, following a proper warmup routine is important. This allows your blood to get flowing and helps to prevent muscle strains. However, it doesn’t have to be a long session. Even 5-10 minutes is enough to reduce muscle tension and prepare your body for play.
Use the Proper Equipment
When it comes to sports, there’s a reason each sport has unique and specific equipment, including shoes. For example, shoes designed for tennis and pickleball provide better side-to-side support and court traction. Wearing the right shoes can significantly decrease your risk of falls and injuries.
In addition to wearing supportive shoes, you must ensure you’re using a paddle with a properly sized handle. Playing with a handle that doesn’t fit your body can leave you susceptible to wrist and elbow injuries and tendonitis, such as tennis elbow, a common pickleball injury.
Listen to Your Body
If you want to know how to avoid pickleball injuries, simply recognize your physical limitations. More times than not, pickleball players will overdo it, regardless if pain persists or not. Listening to your body is one of the most important things you can do when participating in any type of physical activity.
It can be hard to accept that your body doesn’t work or move like it used to. But start out slowly to prevent wear and tear on your joints and seek treatment if you become injured or if something just doesn’t feel right. A physical therapist can help to create a treatment plan that will include physical therapy to improve your range of motion depending on what part of your body is injured. You definitely don’t want to let an injured rotator cuff or torn tendon go without much-needed treatment.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Pickleball may be a low-impact sport, but it’s usually played outside and is an excellent cardiovascular workout. If it’s hot outside, you will become dehydrated even quicker, so it’s important to drink lots of water before, after, and during your match. Hydration is essential for regulating heat and keeping your body moving.
Don’t Forget to Cool Down
Just as warming up is important, so is cooling down. Taking a few minutes after your match to stretch and walk will help to initiate your exercise recovery. This is important because if your body isn’t conditioned, you will experience some degree of muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is normal, but cooling down will help to minimize it.