By Molly Radonich, LAT, ATC
The fastest growing sport in America.. What’s your guess? If you said Pickleball, you would be correct! According to The Economist, Pickleball participation grew by 21.3% from 2019 while the average activity level remained constant.
Pickleball was invented just next door in Bainbridge Island, Washington. It is a combination of tennis, wiffleball, and badminton. It was made official in 1972 and there are now over 4 million Pickleball athletes. You can play singles or doubles and there are 11 points in a game but you must win by 2.
Pickleball athletes move through multiple planes of movement to successfully compete in this game. This requires successful movement patterns that require mobility, motor control and sports specific movements. Both the upper and lower body are highly involved in this sport and require many muscle groups.
At Kauai Therapy & Wellness, we started seeing growing numbers of new patients who suffered injuries from this popular & growing sport. There are several different injuries which result from this loved sport. The most common are sprains, achilles tendonitis, shoulder, neck, back pain, muscle strains of the quads and hamstrings as well as wrist/pain, & fractures. Depending on the injury, it could take a few weeks to heal and others may take much longer. There are several ways to prevent injuries like these and others. Prevention may take a bit of extra effort but will be worth it in the long run.
A proper warm up is key to help prevent injuries. If muscles don’t get sufficient blood flow before beginning activities with quick movements, your risk for a muscle strain greatly increases . Warming up helps to lubricate the joints, increase elasticity of your muscles and prepare your heart rate and blood pressure for activity.
Wearing the right footwear will help to prevent injuries like plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. The right footwear consists of a shoe with proper arch supports, good grip on the bottom for lateral movements and ankle support to prevent ankle sprains. There are specific court shoes you can purchase but a good pair of tennis shoes with all of the above criteria should help keep your feet happy and healthy.
Pickleball involves many different movement patterns and requires the ability to perform quick changes of speed and direction. It also involves lots of upper body and lower body movements at the same time. Cross training can be very beneficial in training your muscles to be able to stand up to the challenges of pickleball. To prevent injury, it is beneficial to do strength training or body weight exercises involving different planes of movement. Agility drills are also a great way to cross train. Biking, swimming or running can be helpful cardiovascular exercises to improve your stamina on the court.
There are many ways to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. Stretching helps to relieve tight muscles and prevent injury from lack of flexibility. Stretching can also help to relieve soreness from a hard workout. Preventative measures such as a Functional Movement Screen works to find potential problems and provide solutions before they become an issue. Kauai Therapy & Wellness offers both Stretch Therapy and Functional Movement Screens to help you keep playing Pickleball to your heart’s content!