Dickson: Preventing pickleball injuries

Apr 18, 2024, 3:54 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2024, 10:08 am

Pickleball has exploded in popularity in Utah and across the nation. Perhaps not surprisingly, so h...

Pickleball has exploded in popularity in Utah and across the nation. Perhaps not surprisingly, so have pickleball injuries. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — My Dad played pickleball until he was 90 years old. He was a stud. And there are several seriously competitive pickleball players in the KSL newsroom. I won’t name names (Matt Johnson).

“Pickleball is exploding in the U.S. with the number of players increasing from 4.8 million in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2023,” Dr. Dallin DeMordaunt told us this morning. He’s a pain management and sports medicine physician with Common Spirit Health.

Related: Apple study shows Utah really loves pickleball

“People love it because it’s low impact, social, provides good exercise, and all ages can participate.”

Pickleball is particularly popular (say that 3 times fast) with people my age – 55 and older.

And perhaps not surprisingly? “We’re seeing a rapid increase in injuries, especially in that age range,” Dr. DeMordaunt said.

What kind of injuries?

The most common injuries in pickleball players are what the doctor calls “overuse injuries.” They include strained muscles and sprained ligaments. “Many of these come from playing too much, which is a temptation for individuals because it is a low-impact sport and people tend to overdo it.”

Related: Pickleball Tournament of Champions hosted in Utah

Have you heard of pickleball elbow? It’s the 21st-century version of tennis elbow.

“It’s a tendinitis injury from swinging and hitting the ball repetitively,” DeMordaunt said. He’s seeing more rotator cuff strains, wrist strains, thigh and hamstring strains, sprained knees, low back strains and Achilles tendon injuries.

And those aren’t the serious ones!

Serious pickleball injuries

“Fractures are some of the most serious injuries we see,” DeMordaunt explained. “They account for 28% of all pickleball injuries, especially in older players who may have poor balance.”

Too often we’ll trip and fall, maybe land on an outstretched hand and fracture our wrist. Or we might fall on a hip and have a fracture. “Sometimes these fractures will require surgery,” Dr. DeMordaunt said.

How to prevent pickleball injuries

So, what do we do about it? “First,” the doctor explained, “improve your balance. Do balance exercises at home and also Tai Chi to improve both your balance and your reaction time.”

Dr. DeMordaunt also stressed the importance of warming up. “Walking briskly for five minutes and dynamic stretches for your joints and limbs will help you get ready to play,” he said. “Also, exercising regularly outside of pickleball will help build strength and endurance to give you more stamina.”

I wonder if playing pickleball will help with my sore back from spring cleaning in the yard? We’ll save that discussion for another day.


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Dickson: Preventing pickleball injuries