How Can I Avoid Pickleball Injuries and Stay Healthy?

Four tips to prevent injury on the pickleball court

A pickleball player smiles while playing.

Four tips to prevent injury on the pickleball court

A combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton, pickleball is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports in the country. Using a Wiffle ball and paddles, pickleball is played with two or four people on a minimized tennis court.

Because pickleball is less intense than tennis, it’s easier for people of all fitness levels to get in on the game. However, as the sport’s popularity grows, so does the risk of pickleball injuries.

Pickleball benefits and risks

Pickleball offers multiple benefits. It’s a good form of aerobic exercise that involves agility and coordination. Players enjoy mood-boosting endorphins and healthy social interaction. It’s relatively easy to learn and can be fun even as a beginner — but that’s part of why pickleball injuries are increasing.

“New players may not realize how much they are exerting themselves, especially if they haven’t been exercising or aren’t used to that type of activity,” says Jeffrey Wilde, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines and Scripps Clinic Mission Valley.

“Bending down to hit the ball, moving around the court, suddenly changing direction —any of these can lead to injuries of the lower back, legs or ankles.”

Common lower body pickleball injuries include low back strains, herniated disks, calf and hamstring strains, sprained ankles and Achilles injuries. Knee injuries are also common, especially strains and tears in the knee ligaments caused by sudden turning and stopping.

Pickleball players also may suffer upper body injuries. Poor form while swinging the paddle to hit or serve the ball can cause tears in the shoulder, while overexertion or overuse can lead to tendinitis in the shoulder, elbow, forearm or wrist. 


“Pickleball also can aggravate arthritis, especially in the knees,” says Dr. Wilde. “More than half of devoted pickleball players are over age 55, so arthritis flares may be a concern.”

Less common injuries include traumatic events, such as falling or being hit in the head or eye by the ball or paddle.

If you do get hurt, know how to treat a pickleball injury. Minor sprains and strains usually can be treated at home with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). More serious injuries may require medical care.

“If you’re not sure whether an injury needs medical attention, call your doctor or go to an urgent care facility,” says Dr. Wilde. “Of course, if you have a traumatic injury, such as a broken bone or potential concussion, go to the emergency room.”

Four tips to prevent pickleball injuries

Every sport has its share of injuries, and pickleball is no exception — but that’s no reason to stay off the court. Like any sport, you can take steps to help prevent pickleball injuries.

Here are a four tips:

1. Invest in proper footwear

You trusty walking shoes may be super comfortable, but shoes designed specifically for pickleball (or tennis) can offer better support for moving in all directions. Plus, the soles are intended to provide traction on the court to help prevent slipping and falling.

2. Take a lesson

It can be helpful to get tips from a coach, especially if you’re new to the game. Learning how to move safely around the court, proper swinging techniques and other pointers can help reduce the risk of injuries as well as improve your play.

3. Warm up and cool down

Before you start playing, warm up by jogging around the court a few times or doing jumping jacks or other whole-body exercises.

Gently stretch your hamstrings, quads, calves, shoulder and wrists, paying extra attention to anything that feels tight or is prone to injury. Then, move on to practice drills such as volleys and serves.

When you’ve finished playing, take a few minutes to stretch. A foam roller can help release tight muscles in the legs and hips.

4. Play smart, don’t overexert

It’s tempting to give it your all but try to avoid overexerting yourself to the point of injury. Take breaks when you need them, drink plenty of water and keep the competition friendly. If you start to feel pain or something just doesn’t feel right, don’t push through — it’s not worth getting injured. Take time off until you’re feeling better. 

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