Pickleball Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Pickleball Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Pickleball – a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping pong – is the fastest growing sport in the country, with participation jumping nearly 10% in one year alone. While the 3.5 million Americans who play pickleball are about one-tenth the number who play golf and one-fifth the number who play tennis, the sport continues to grow as a fun way to get exercise and socialize. It’s easier to learn than tennis and faster – and less expensive – than golf.
But like all sports, pickleball is an opportunity for potential injury as well, especially since about 25% of players are age 65 or older. It’s important to be aware of potential injuries and plan accordingly.
As with any sport, it’s important to warm up before every pickleball game or practice. Schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes for warm-up, starting with some easy cardio (a quick walk, jog, or bike ride around the courts should do it) to get your core temperature up. Then, do some light stretching. After play, be sure to cool down by taking a slow walk and doing a bit of stretching too.
Here are a few of the most common pickleball injuries to watch for:
● Ankle strain/sprain – Pickleball involves sudden movements of the feet and ankles forward, backward, and side-to-side, which can put stress on the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. Using a functional ankle brace that allows full natural ankle range of motion while providing support and stability to the ankle joint is helpful for players who are experiencing ankle strain/sprain.
● Achilles tendonitis – Achilles tendinitis occurs from repetitive stress to the Achilles tendon. Pain can appear anywhere along the tendon, from the calf muscle to tendon’s attachment at the back of the heel bone. Watch for pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon in the morning or after periods of sitting or rest. The pain at the back of the heel worsens with activity and swelling can also occur.
● Achilles tendon tear – Achilles tendon rupture can be a complete or partial tear. This happens when the tendon is stretched beyond its ability due to a forceful and abrupt downward movement of the ankle. This may occur during falling or tripping which is quite common in “weekend warrior” pickleball players. This type of injury will often require surgical repair. Prompt evaluation is imperative for optimal long-term outcome.
● Plantar fasciitis/heel bruise – Plantar fasciitis and heel bruising come from overuse or repetitive pounding on the hard playing surface. You may experience pain in the arch area or bottom of the heel or frequently both. This is often treated with activity modification, rest, stretching, intrinsic foot exercises, and potentially shoe orthotics or heel cups.
● Blisters – Be sure to wear anti-friction socks and shoes that fit properly. While blisters may not seem too worrisome, they can impact your gait or develop into larger wounds that require special attention.
Talk to a specialist first
If you’re concerned about how your body may respond to playing pickleball – or if you’re seeing the impact already – you may want to visit an orthopaedic specialist. And with sports like pickleball, where your feet and ankles are at particular risk, you’ll want to work with someone with expertise in that area.
Dr. Matthew Nalamlieng at DOC Orthopaedic is a board-certified podiatrist, who focuses on the treatment of chronic and acute foot conditions. He is certified in foot, rearfoot and reconstructive ankle surgery with the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS). He can and will address all foot problems including toe pain, forefoot pain, heel pain, bunions, hammertoes, flat feet, tendinitis, and arthritis.
Dr. Nalamlieng earned his Bachelor of Science at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California. He then completed his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Podiatric Medicine in Pomona, California, graduating as part of the Pi Delta Honor Society.
During his three-year integrated podiatric medicine and surgery residency with an added credential in reconstructive rearfoot/ankle surgery at the White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Nalamlieng focused on foot and ankle sports injuries, lower extremity trauma, joint replacement for end-stage ankle arthritis, and reconstruction of complex foot and ankle deformities.
He went on to serve as a member of the Center for Limb Preservation & Advanced Wound Care at White Memorial Medical Center and completed additional training in advanced techniques in lower extremity reconstruction at USC Keck Medical Center as a chief resident.

About DOC Orthopaedics
Since 1972, the specialists at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine have been committed to providing exceptional orthopaedic care through innovative techniques, quality services, patient communication, and education. With specialties ranging from general orthopaedics and physical therapy to sports medicine, joint replacement, and more, the doctors at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can provide local expert care for any orthopaedic disorder or injury and help put your life back in motion.


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