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Serving Up Safety and Recovery Tips for Pickleball Enthusiasts

Pickleball is an exciting sport that's gaining popularity across the nation. However, like any physical activity, there is a chance of orthopedic injuries. Whether you're an experienced player or just starting out, it's important to understand the most common orthopedic injuries in pickleball and how to prevent and recover from them non-operatively.

Common Pickleball Injuries

The fast-paced nature of pickleball makes the trendy sport's players more prone to injuries. The most common injuries are sprains and strains in the lower extremities. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, inflammation, and limited range of motion. In severe cases, these injuries can prevent you from participating in sports and daily activities, requiring immediate orthopedic care.

Acute vs. Overuse Injuries

It's crucial to differentiate between acute and overuse injuries. Acute injuries occur suddenly due to falls, blows, or twists, while overuse injuries develop gradually from repetitive motions. On the pickleball court, acute injuries often result from falls due to the sport's speed and quick pivoting, leading to issues like ankle sprains, Achilles strains, knee sprains, muscle strains, and fractures. Chronic injuries stem from continuous court pounding, trunk twisting, and racket swinging, causing problems such as plantar fasciitis, low back strains, elbow epicondylitis, and rotator cuff strains.

Pro Tip: Head to your nearest OrthoCarolina Orthopedic Urgent Care for any acute injuries for quicker-than-the-ER assistance.

Prevention Measures

To minimize the risk of orthopedic injuries, pickleball players should adopt preventive strategies. A proper workout routine outside of the sport and a thorough warm-up and cool-down are essential. Cardiovascular exercise improves endurance and muscle strength, enhancing overall health. Strength training, incorporating lateral and rotational movements, enhances muscle stability. Resistance training with free weights and therabands is highly recommended.

Pro Tip: OrthoCarolina Therapists can assist in prevention measures and most insurance carriers allow for direct access to Therapy (aka, no referral needed).

Importance of Warm-up and Cool-down

Tried and true for all sports and recreational activities, implementing a warm-up can be critical to avoiding injury or managing chronic pain. A brief 5-10-minute warm-up can significantly reduce the risk of injuries. Pillars to a great warm-up include dynamic stretching and bodyweight exercises in different planes of motion. Try jogging, mini hops, side shuffling, shoulder circles, and trunk rotations before your next pickleball match.

Returning to Play

Deciding when it's safe to return to play is crucial. Make sure you are free from pain, swelling, and range of motion limitations. If you're unsure, consult a medical provider to avoid further injury.

Bracing and Taping

Bracing and taping can provide much-needed support for injury-prone areas like the knee, ankle, and shoulder. They help increase stability in healing or previously injured structures. Kinesio tape, in particular, can alleviate pain and improve function in various injuries.

Post-Pickleball Injury Rehabilitation

After an injury, muscles tend to tighten and weaken quickly, leading to compensation in other areas of the body or even poor posture. Post-injury rehabilitation involves soft tissue mobilization, stretching, and exercises to improve range of motion, strength, endurance, and muscle firing rate. At OrthoCarolina, our Therapy team tailors these rehab routines to your specific needs and can be guided by a physical therapist to ensure a safe return to pickleball.

In pickleball, just like any other sport, injuries are a possibility. However, with the right knowledge, preparation, and care, you can minimize the risk of orthopedic injuries and enjoy this exciting game for years to come.

Thank you to Riley Vermillion, PT, DPT from OrthoCarolina Sports Training Center for providing this blog information!

Sources: Greiner N. Pickleball: Injury Considerations in an Increasingly Popular Sport. Mo Med. 2019 Nov-Dec;116(6):488-491. PMID: 31911734; PMCID: PMC6913863.

This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you are seeking specific orthopedic advice or assistance, please consult with your OrthoCarolina physician or locate one in your area through OrthoCarolina’s website at

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