Pickleball may not be as low impact as you think - Doctors share tips to avoid getting hurt

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Pickleball may not be as low impact as you think
Doctors say a common misconception about pickleball is that it's less injury-provoking than other sports.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Some say pickleball is tennis and racquetball wrapped up together and has skyrocketed in popularity.

In fact, one estimate shows there are 40 million pickleball players. Many see it as a sport with a low potential for injuries, but you should still be careful.

Bob Friend saw pickleball as a low-impact activity said he made lots of friends while playing the game.

"It's a short paddle. It's not a string game, and it's with a plastic ball as opposed to a core rubber ball," he explained.

But even among friends, competitive spirits can lead to getting hurt.

Dr. John-Paul Rue, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, said it's a common misconception that pickleball is less injury-provoking than other sports.

"In most of the injuries that we see occur in the lower extremity, so in the knees and the ankles," said Rue. "They're usually from a sudden lunging, jumping, twisting type of maneuver."

While anyone can play pickleball, 90% of injuries occur in those over 50. Friend suffered a patella injury to his knee that was intense.

"He did, sort of, a sudden lunge, and what happened was, his quadriceps, his thigh muscles, contracted suddenly and actually ripped the tendon from off of the bone, just below the kneecap," Rue said of Friend's injury.

Friend said the recovery was pretty intense, as well.

"The first four to six weeks, you're pretty immobile," he said. "Then, you start to gain confidence, and the brace starts to come off, because you sleep with a brace for the first five weeks."

So how can you have fun on the pickleball court and lower your risk for injuries? The first thing you should do, according to Rue, is warm up.

Stretch your muscles before and after playing a game, wear the proper footwear, and before you play, clear any debris on the court that could cause a fall.

If it's hot out, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and dizziness.

Also, be mindful that as people age, they lose bone density, which can lead to fractures so know your limitations.

Play a little slower than you think you need to and do not push yourself just to make a point. Enjoy the game by staying on the court and out of the emergency room.