Article
Podcast Episode
July 15, 2024

Injury-Free Pickleball: Essential Tips for Prevention and Performance

Key Takeaways:

  • The most common injuries in pickleball include sprains, strains, and fractures, with sprains often affecting the ankles and wrists and strains impacting muscles and tendons.
  • Fractures, especially wrist fractures, are prevalent among older adults playing pickleball, often due to falls and age-related bone density loss.
  • Prevent injuries by incorporating warm-ups and cooldowns, learning proper movement patterns, strength training, and progressing slowly to avoid overuse.
  • Hydration, nutrition, and using the right gear are essential for maintaining balance, bone health, and overall performance on the pickleball court.
Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:
Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:
Cite this page:

Over 48 million adults in the US (19% of the total population) played pickleball last year, and it’s easy to see why. Pickleball is a widely accessible sport that builds aerobic fitness, speed, agility, and balance—and all ages can partake in the fun competition.

With pickleball on the rise, injuries aren’t far behind. Like other racquet sports, pickleball can include movements and accelerations your body might not be accustomed to. Without the proper preparation, you could be facing a trip to the doctor. 

Here, you’ll learn about the most common injuries in pickleball and key strategies you can incorporate into your routine so you never miss a day on the court. 

The Most Common Pickleball Injuries

#1 Sprains and Strains 

Pickleball courts may have a great surface to bounce a ball, but they are not so forgiving when you fall. According to a study published in Injury Epidemiology, two-thirds of all pickleball injuries occur during slips, trips, or falls on the court. The most predominant injuries reported in pickleball, making up 33% of all injuries, are sprains and strains. 

Sprains

A sprain is a soft-tissue injury affecting the ligaments, a fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone.  An unexpected fall, twist, or blow to the body can force your joint into an abnormal position, leading to a stretched or torn ligament. 

The most common locations for sprains in pickleball are the ankles and wrists. Ankle sprains typically occur due to rapid lateral movements and sudden changes in direction that can roll or twist the ankle. Wrist sprains often happen when players fall and instinctively put their hands out to brace themselves, leading to overstretching or tearing of the ligaments in the wrist. 

Sprain symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, instability, a popping sensation, and limited mobility. 

Strains

Strains affect muscles or tendons, connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Unexpected changes of direction, lunging out of reach in a volley, and potential overuse in repetitive movements can put your body in a precarious position that may increase your chances of sustaining a strain.

In pickleball, common strains occur in the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, shoulders, and lower back. These strains result from sudden bursts of speed, rapid movements, jumping, repetitive overhead motions, and twisting. Symptoms of a strain include pain, muscle spasms, stiffness, swelling, weakness, and limited ability to move the affected muscle tendon.

A “pulled muscle” or “torn ligament” can vary from mild to severe. You can safely treat mild sprains and strains at home, but more serious injuries require medical attention, so consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

#2 Fractures 

If you take a tumble on the court, there’s a chance that you may fracture a bone. According to a recent presentation at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the rate of fractures related to pickleball increased 90-fold in players between ages 60 and 69 over the last 20 years. 

A study published in the American Association of Hand Surgery found that 90% of pickleball injuries were a result of a fall, and a wrist fracture was the most common injury reported in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database from 2013 to 2022 tennis- and pickleball-related injuries in the United States. 

The increase in fractures among older adults playing pickleball may be related to age-related bone density loss or osteoporosis, which makes you more susceptible to fractures. Your bone tissue doesn’t have to slow you down, though. By easing into the game, building strength, and improving your balance, you can avoid a fracture and potentially eliminate the risk of falls altogether. 

#3 Chronic Injuries 

The repetitive movement of pickleball (and, in essence, all sports) can irritate your joints and the tissues around them. The more you play, the more you perform cuts and changes of directions in the lower body and overhead movements in serves and smashes.

Tendinopathy, or an injury to a tendon that causes pain, swelling, and reduced physical function, accounts for around 22% of reported injuries across all sports. Bursitis, or the inflammation of the bursae that normally sit around bony joints to reduce friction, can also lead to nagging pain during movement.

Common chronic injuries in pickleball include: 

  • Tennis (or, in this case, pickleball) elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Hip and shoulder bursitis 
  • Inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons
  • Plantar fasciitis 
  • Achilles tendonitis 
  • Low-back pain

Treating chronic injuries is typically individualized according to their severity and discomfort. You may need to take a few days or weeks off from the pickleball court and ease yourself back into activity within a holistic exercise program or visit your healthcare provider to develop a more aggressive rehabilitation plan.

Tips to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

While participating in any sport increases your chances of sustaining an injury, there are simple ways that you can keep playing injury-free. Incorporate the following strategies to help you stay healthy and strong on the pickleball court. 

Tip 1: Don’t forget your warm-up and cooldown.

Taking the time to prepare your body for the demands of your pickleball match could mean the difference between bouncing back the next day or sitting on the couch with an ice pack. Before your workout, Include light aerobic exercise similar to what you’ll perform on the court that move through all three planes (forward, side-to-side, and rotational) alongside dynamic flexibility exercises to improve mobility. Follow up with static stretching when you finish playing to round out your program. 

Start with AIM7’s personalized warmups and cooldowns to prime you for a pain-free, strong match.

 

Tip 2: Learn the movement patterns.

“Practice makes perfect” is a tried-and-true statement for a reason. Take time to learn proper form in pickleball serving, volleying, dinking, and groundstrokes to hone your skills, make your movement natural and efficient, and focus more on where you want the ball to go. Use practice matches to try new strategies before bringing them into game matches to execute them safely and accurately.

Tip 3: Incorporate strength training

Resistance training boosts your pickleball game in more ways than one. It supports your health and longevity, builds stronger bones to prevent fractures, and improves balance to reduce trips and falls. You’ll be more nimble on your feet, more explosive in your movements, and last longer in a match. 

AIM7’s pickleball-specific resistance training plans give you the tools to build resilience on the court and improve your performance.

Tip 4: Progress slowly 

When you’re just starting out or increasing your volume or level of play, gradually build play time and intensity. Progressive overload can help prevent overuse injuries while still improving your performance. The goal is to play pickleball for decades instead of playing hard for a short time and letting an injury take you out. Not sure when to push and when to recover? AIM7 partners with you and all of your wearable data to understand when you’re at your best and when you need to prioritize rest. 

Tip 5: Stay hydrated and Well-Fueled   

Hydration and nutrition are essential for performance. Staying hydrated on the court can improve balance and support cardiovascular and neuromuscular health during exercise. At the same time, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats ensures faster recovery for the next session. 

To support strong bones, a diet with a high intake of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes positively affects bone health. It is directly associated with better bone mineral density and a lower fracture risk.

How to Prevent Common Pickleball Injuries

Common Injury Prevention Strategy
Ankle Sprain
  • Warm up with lateral movement patterns and dynamic stretching

  • Strength training including ankle strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and practice movement patterns

Wrist Sprain or Fracture

To avoid a fall:

  • Warm up in different planes of motion

  • Strength training and nutrition/hydration to maintain balance

  • Learn movement patterns to anticipate movements

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue


Nutrition, strength training, and weight-bearing exercise to avoid bone fracture

Knee Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes and dynamic stretching

  • Strength training, including lower body and total-body strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and practice movement patterns, including footwork and change of direction

  • Wear the right gear: improper footwear on the court can cause undue twisting at the knee

Hip Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes and dynamic stretching to improve mobility at the hip

  • Strength training including lower body, core stability, and total-body strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and practice movement patterns, including footwork and change of direction

Shoulder Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes, including upper body and dynamic stretching

  • Strength train total-body including shoulder-specific “prehab” exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and perfect movement patterns, including serving, volleying, dinking, and groundstrokes

Elbow Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes, including upper body and dynamic stretching

  • Strength train total-body including elbow, shoulder, and wrist strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and perfect movement patterns, including serving, volleying, dinking, and groundstrokes 

Low-back Pain
  • Warm-up with dynamic flexibility, light cardio, and sport-specific movements

  • Cooldown with static stretching

  • Strength train to recruit large muscle groups to work for you

  • Progress slowly to avoid overuse injuries

  • Learn movement patterns to improve efficiency

Chronic Inflammatory Issues (tendonitis, bursitis)
  • Warmup with dynamic flexibility, light cardio, and sport-specific movements to prepare for the demands of the sport

  • Cooldown with static stretching to support soft-tissue health and employ recovery strategies like ice or heat as needed

  • Progress slowly to avoid overuse injuries when you build volume too quickly

  • Learn movement patterns of the sport to perfect form

  • Wear the right gear and footwear to support your needs (e.g., orthotics, arch support, compression garments) 

By prioritizing injury prevention strategies and proper technique, you can focus on your pickleball game while minimizing the risk of injury. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you experience persistent pain or discomfort during or after playing pickleball. With the proper preparation, you can stay on the court, continue improving your game, and have fun for many years.

Prevent Injuries & Improve Pickleball Performance with AIM7

Pre-Match

  • Pickleball-specific warm-up plan to prevent injury & improve performance
  • Breathwork tool to prime your mind 

Post-Match

  • Stretching to reduce soreness and boost recovery
  • Breathwork tool to calm your brain & body
  • Sleep & recovery recommendations 

Off-Court Training

  • Injury prevention: Mobility & Pre-hab programs guided by Dr. Kyle Richmond
  • Customized strength training programs
  • Mental fitness training with top performance psychologists

Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data:
Cite this page:

Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:
Key TAKEAWAYS
  • The most common injuries in pickleball include sprains, strains, and fractures, with sprains often affecting the ankles and wrists and strains impacting muscles and tendons.
  • Fractures, especially wrist fractures, are prevalent among older adults playing pickleball, often due to falls and age-related bone density loss.
  • Prevent injuries by incorporating warm-ups and cooldowns, learning proper movement patterns, strength training, and progressing slowly to avoid overuse.
  • Hydration, nutrition, and using the right gear are essential for maintaining balance, bone health, and overall performance on the pickleball court.
Contents
For further analysis, we broke down the data by wearable device:

Over 48 million adults in the US (19% of the total population) played pickleball last year, and it’s easy to see why. Pickleball is a widely accessible sport that builds aerobic fitness, speed, agility, and balance—and all ages can partake in the fun competition.

With pickleball on the rise, injuries aren’t far behind. Like other racquet sports, pickleball can include movements and accelerations your body might not be accustomed to. Without the proper preparation, you could be facing a trip to the doctor. 

Here, you’ll learn about the most common injuries in pickleball and key strategies you can incorporate into your routine so you never miss a day on the court. 

The Most Common Pickleball Injuries

#1 Sprains and Strains 

Pickleball courts may have a great surface to bounce a ball, but they are not so forgiving when you fall. According to a study published in Injury Epidemiology, two-thirds of all pickleball injuries occur during slips, trips, or falls on the court. The most predominant injuries reported in pickleball, making up 33% of all injuries, are sprains and strains. 

Sprains

A sprain is a soft-tissue injury affecting the ligaments, a fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone.  An unexpected fall, twist, or blow to the body can force your joint into an abnormal position, leading to a stretched or torn ligament. 

The most common locations for sprains in pickleball are the ankles and wrists. Ankle sprains typically occur due to rapid lateral movements and sudden changes in direction that can roll or twist the ankle. Wrist sprains often happen when players fall and instinctively put their hands out to brace themselves, leading to overstretching or tearing of the ligaments in the wrist. 

Sprain symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, instability, a popping sensation, and limited mobility. 

Strains

Strains affect muscles or tendons, connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Unexpected changes of direction, lunging out of reach in a volley, and potential overuse in repetitive movements can put your body in a precarious position that may increase your chances of sustaining a strain.

In pickleball, common strains occur in the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, shoulders, and lower back. These strains result from sudden bursts of speed, rapid movements, jumping, repetitive overhead motions, and twisting. Symptoms of a strain include pain, muscle spasms, stiffness, swelling, weakness, and limited ability to move the affected muscle tendon.

A “pulled muscle” or “torn ligament” can vary from mild to severe. You can safely treat mild sprains and strains at home, but more serious injuries require medical attention, so consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

#2 Fractures 

If you take a tumble on the court, there’s a chance that you may fracture a bone. According to a recent presentation at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the rate of fractures related to pickleball increased 90-fold in players between ages 60 and 69 over the last 20 years. 

A study published in the American Association of Hand Surgery found that 90% of pickleball injuries were a result of a fall, and a wrist fracture was the most common injury reported in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database from 2013 to 2022 tennis- and pickleball-related injuries in the United States. 

The increase in fractures among older adults playing pickleball may be related to age-related bone density loss or osteoporosis, which makes you more susceptible to fractures. Your bone tissue doesn’t have to slow you down, though. By easing into the game, building strength, and improving your balance, you can avoid a fracture and potentially eliminate the risk of falls altogether. 

#3 Chronic Injuries 

The repetitive movement of pickleball (and, in essence, all sports) can irritate your joints and the tissues around them. The more you play, the more you perform cuts and changes of directions in the lower body and overhead movements in serves and smashes.

Tendinopathy, or an injury to a tendon that causes pain, swelling, and reduced physical function, accounts for around 22% of reported injuries across all sports. Bursitis, or the inflammation of the bursae that normally sit around bony joints to reduce friction, can also lead to nagging pain during movement.

Common chronic injuries in pickleball include: 

  • Tennis (or, in this case, pickleball) elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Hip and shoulder bursitis 
  • Inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons
  • Plantar fasciitis 
  • Achilles tendonitis 
  • Low-back pain

Treating chronic injuries is typically individualized according to their severity and discomfort. You may need to take a few days or weeks off from the pickleball court and ease yourself back into activity within a holistic exercise program or visit your healthcare provider to develop a more aggressive rehabilitation plan.

Tips to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

While participating in any sport increases your chances of sustaining an injury, there are simple ways that you can keep playing injury-free. Incorporate the following strategies to help you stay healthy and strong on the pickleball court. 

Tip 1: Don’t forget your warm-up and cooldown.

Taking the time to prepare your body for the demands of your pickleball match could mean the difference between bouncing back the next day or sitting on the couch with an ice pack. Before your workout, Include light aerobic exercise similar to what you’ll perform on the court that move through all three planes (forward, side-to-side, and rotational) alongside dynamic flexibility exercises to improve mobility. Follow up with static stretching when you finish playing to round out your program. 

Start with AIM7’s personalized warmups and cooldowns to prime you for a pain-free, strong match.

 

Tip 2: Learn the movement patterns.

“Practice makes perfect” is a tried-and-true statement for a reason. Take time to learn proper form in pickleball serving, volleying, dinking, and groundstrokes to hone your skills, make your movement natural and efficient, and focus more on where you want the ball to go. Use practice matches to try new strategies before bringing them into game matches to execute them safely and accurately.

Tip 3: Incorporate strength training

Resistance training boosts your pickleball game in more ways than one. It supports your health and longevity, builds stronger bones to prevent fractures, and improves balance to reduce trips and falls. You’ll be more nimble on your feet, more explosive in your movements, and last longer in a match. 

AIM7’s pickleball-specific resistance training plans give you the tools to build resilience on the court and improve your performance.

Tip 4: Progress slowly 

When you’re just starting out or increasing your volume or level of play, gradually build play time and intensity. Progressive overload can help prevent overuse injuries while still improving your performance. The goal is to play pickleball for decades instead of playing hard for a short time and letting an injury take you out. Not sure when to push and when to recover? AIM7 partners with you and all of your wearable data to understand when you’re at your best and when you need to prioritize rest. 

Tip 5: Stay hydrated and Well-Fueled   

Hydration and nutrition are essential for performance. Staying hydrated on the court can improve balance and support cardiovascular and neuromuscular health during exercise. At the same time, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats ensures faster recovery for the next session. 

To support strong bones, a diet with a high intake of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes positively affects bone health. It is directly associated with better bone mineral density and a lower fracture risk.

How to Prevent Common Pickleball Injuries

Common Injury Prevention Strategy
Ankle Sprain
  • Warm up with lateral movement patterns and dynamic stretching

  • Strength training including ankle strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and practice movement patterns

Wrist Sprain or Fracture

To avoid a fall:

  • Warm up in different planes of motion

  • Strength training and nutrition/hydration to maintain balance

  • Learn movement patterns to anticipate movements

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue


Nutrition, strength training, and weight-bearing exercise to avoid bone fracture

Knee Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes and dynamic stretching

  • Strength training, including lower body and total-body strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and practice movement patterns, including footwork and change of direction

  • Wear the right gear: improper footwear on the court can cause undue twisting at the knee

Hip Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes and dynamic stretching to improve mobility at the hip

  • Strength training including lower body, core stability, and total-body strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and practice movement patterns, including footwork and change of direction

Shoulder Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes, including upper body and dynamic stretching

  • Strength train total-body including shoulder-specific “prehab” exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and perfect movement patterns, including serving, volleying, dinking, and groundstrokes

Elbow Injuries (sprain or strain, or overuse)
  • Warm up with movement patterns in all three planes, including upper body and dynamic stretching

  • Strength train total-body including elbow, shoulder, and wrist strengthening exercises

  • Progress slowly to avoid fatigue

  • Learn and perfect movement patterns, including serving, volleying, dinking, and groundstrokes 

Low-back Pain
  • Warm-up with dynamic flexibility, light cardio, and sport-specific movements

  • Cooldown with static stretching

  • Strength train to recruit large muscle groups to work for you

  • Progress slowly to avoid overuse injuries

  • Learn movement patterns to improve efficiency

Chronic Inflammatory Issues (tendonitis, bursitis)
  • Warmup with dynamic flexibility, light cardio, and sport-specific movements to prepare for the demands of the sport

  • Cooldown with static stretching to support soft-tissue health and employ recovery strategies like ice or heat as needed

  • Progress slowly to avoid overuse injuries when you build volume too quickly

  • Learn movement patterns of the sport to perfect form

  • Wear the right gear and footwear to support your needs (e.g., orthotics, arch support, compression garments) 

By prioritizing injury prevention strategies and proper technique, you can focus on your pickleball game while minimizing the risk of injury. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you experience persistent pain or discomfort during or after playing pickleball. With the proper preparation, you can stay on the court, continue improving your game, and have fun for many years.

Prevent Injuries & Improve Pickleball Performance with AIM7

Pre-Match

  • Pickleball-specific warm-up plan to prevent injury & improve performance
  • Breathwork tool to prime your mind 

Post-Match

  • Stretching to reduce soreness and boost recovery
  • Breathwork tool to calm your brain & body
  • Sleep & recovery recommendations 

Off-Court Training

  • Injury prevention: Mobility & Pre-hab programs guided by Dr. Kyle Richmond
  • Customized strength training programs
  • Mental fitness training with top performance psychologists

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