Summer Fun in RecoveryPickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, enjoyed by individuals of all ages and abilities. However, despite its increasing popularity, few players are aware of the potential injuries associated with this dynamic game.

While playing pickleball can be a fun and rewarding experience, it is important to understand some common injuries that can occur and take steps to prevent them. In particular, the upper extremities -- your hands, wrists, shoulders, and elbows -- are vulnerable to injury, especially with improper technique.

Recognized for his expertise in upper extremity care, Dr. Mark Yaffe at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists brings years of experience in helping athletes prevent and recover from various upper extremity injuries. From sprains to stress fractures, Dr. Yaffe can help pickleball players identify and address the root causes of their pain.

Keep reading as we discuss six common pickleball injuries and shed light on how they can be avoided.

Understanding Pickball Injury

Playing pickleball, like other racket sports, demands quick, repetitive movements of the hands, wrists, shoulders, and elbows. These movements, especially when executed without proper technique or adequate rest, can result in a range of overuse injuries.

Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by 'overdoing it' or repeating the same athletic activity. In pickleball, these injuries commonly affect the upper extremities due to the repeated striking and serving motions.

Notably, the likelihood of these injuries increases in the absence of proper warm-ups, physical conditioning, and equipment — factors often overlooked by those new to the sport. Understanding these risks is the first step towards a safer, pain-free pickleball experience.

The Roll Of Proper Technique

Proper technique is crucial in preventing injuries in pickleball. Just like any other athletic activity, mastering the correct form can significantly reduce strain on your body, especially your upper extremities. When you play with poor technique, you unknowingly put extra pressure on your joints and muscles, which, in turn, can lead to various injuries.

When playing pickleball, maintaining a good grip on the paddle and using your wrists and shoulders effectively to control your shots can vastly improve your game and minimize the risk of injury. It's also important to make sure your body follows through after a shot, as abrupt stops can cause undue stress on your muscles.

Stance and footwork are equally significant. Positioning yourself correctly on the court and moving your feet to meet the ball instead of stretching your arm can help avoid undue strain on the shoulders and elbows.

Regular practice is also key to improving your technique. You may consider working with a coach or watching online tutorials to get better insights into the game.

Remember, playing pickleball should be an enjoyable activity. By focusing on proper technique, you can ensure that you stay injury-free and make the most of your time on the court.

Six Common Pickleball - Related Injuries

  1. Achillon Strainses Tend

    Achilles tendon strains are a common pickleball-related injury often caused by sudden movements or excessive running and jumping. The Achilles tendon, a band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, can become strained due to overuse. Symptoms typically include pain along the back of your foot and above your heel, especially when stretching your ankle or standing on your toes.

  2. Shoulder Injuries

    Shoulder injuries are frequently seen in pickleball due to the repetitive overhead motions involved in serving and hitting. These injuries can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and could include conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, and dislocations. Symptoms often include pain, weakness in the arm, and limited range of motion.

  3. Rotator Cuff Injuries

    Rotator cuff injuries are well known in racquet sports and pickleball is no exception. They occur when the muscles and tendons that keep the ball of your upper arm bone within your shoulder socket are injured. Repetitive stress or a sudden, harsh movement can cause this. Symptoms include a dull ache deep in the shoulder, disturbed sleep due to pain, and difficulty in raising the arm.

  4. Tennis Elbow

    Tennis elbow -- or perhaps pickleball elbow -- is another common injury amongst pickleball players. It's a type of strain caused by repetitive wrist and arm motions, particularly the twisting motion used when serving or backhanding a ball. This overuse can lead to inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow, causing pain and tenderness around the elbow and forearm.

  5. Muscle Strains

    Muscle strains in the upper extremities, such as biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles, may result from an improper technique or overuse in pickleball. These muscle injuries can result in pain, swelling, and restricted movement. Players may also experience muscle stiffness or weakness.

  6. Wrist Sprains

    Wrist sprains are common as the sport requires significant use of the wrist for batting the ball. A sprain occurs when the ligaments connecting the bones in the wrist get stretched or torn, often because of a fall onto an outstretched hand or a forceful swing. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the wrist.

Injury Prevention And Best Practices

Preventing these common pickleball injuries largely involves adopting thoughtful, proactive measures. Here are some preventive measures, best practices, and valuable tips to incorporate into your training and game routines, and help you prevent pickleball injuries effectively:

  • Warm-up and Cool-down: Always warm up before you start playing and cool down after the game. This can include light jogging, stretching, or doing pickleball-specific exercises. This ensures that your muscles are prepared for the activity and helps to deter injuries.
  • Conditioning Exercises: It’s crucial to incorporate strength and conditioning exercises into your routine. These workouts will strengthen your upper body, particularly the muscles and joints most engaged during pickleball, thus reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Proper Equipment: Using the right equipment is a critical factor to prevent pickleball injuries. Ensure your racquet is the correct weight and grip size for your hand. Wear shoes specifically designed for court games, as they provide the necessary support and traction.
  • Rest and Recovery: Don’t underestimate the importance of rest and recovery. Take regular breaks between games and ensure you are getting enough sleep at night. This allows your body to recover and repair, minimizing the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated, especially when playing in hot weather. Also, maintain a balanced diet to ensure your muscles have the nutrients they need to perform and recover.
  • Professional Guidance: Consider working with a professional trainer who can provide personalized advice based on your fitness level and technique. This guidance can be invaluable in avoiding injuries.

With these measures in place, you can not only enjoy the sport but also ensure a safer, healthier pickleball experience.

When to See a Specialist

If your injuries persist after rest and self-care, or if you're experiencing severe pain, it might be time to consult a specialist. If you can't perform your regular activities, if the pain or swelling worsens, or if the injured area is significantly weaker than its counterpart, these are all signals that professional help may be needed.

A physical therapist can also work with you to create a customized recovery plan. This may involve targeted exercises to regain strength and mobility, advice on modifying your pickleball technique to avoid future injuries, and education on preventative measures to keep you safe on the court.

Visit Chicago's Top Upper Extremity Specialist

Dr. Mark Yaffe is here to provide you with the comprehensive care you need. He specializes in upper extremity sports medicine and is armed with the latest diagnostic tools to accurately determine the nature of your injuries.

Remember, early intervention can often lead to a better prognosis and prevent further complications. So don't hesitate to reach out to Dr. Yaffe's office -- we're committed to helping you return to the sport you love in a safe and healthy manner.

Get back on the court to pain-free pickleball with Greater Chicago's top upper extremity specialist. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark Yaffe at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists today.