Pickleball is experiencing its own renaissance with dedicated courts popping up all over the city. However, with the rise in popularity of the sport, there is an increased risk of injury. Sports medicine physician Alberto Maldonado at Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine says the most common injuries depend on age. Younger players usually experience injuries to upper extremities such as shoulders and elbows, while older players tend to injure lower extremities—the Achilles, knee, hamstring, or back. “It’s a new sport that is very accessible—you just have paddles and a ball and you start hitting,” says Maldonado. “It’s an incredible opportunity to promote health, to keep exercising, and to be social, but at the same time know how to prevent injury.” It’s important for players to be aware of injury prevention techniques as the sport continues to gain popularity. Beacon’s Maldonado is witnessing an increasing number of patients seeking treatment for pickleball-related injuries. Maldonado recommends the following tips to avoid injury, take care of minor injuries at home, and know when to seek medical care.
How to prevent injury
Maldonado emphasizes the importance of preparing to play. Spend time warming up, stretching, and practicing proper form to avoid injury. Keep up your endurance and stay hydrated, especially on warmer days when playing outside.
Nursing minor injuries at home
Tweaks and soreness are normal, especially when it’s your first time picking up the paddle. Minor muscle soreness is common and nothing to be concerned with unless it persists for several days. Maldonado says the best way to treat minor injuries at home is to follow the RICE protocol:
- Rest: Give your body time to recover.
- Ice: Alternate 20 minutes on and off.
- Compression: Reduce swelling by keeping pressure in the area where you’re experiencing discomfort. Use a cloth wrap or a brace you can find at a local drug store.
- Elevate: Use a pillow to raise the injured body part above the heart so the body can circulate fluids.
“If you feel that those basics are not helping, you’re in a lot of pain, you have limited range of motion, you can’t work, or you just need confidence that everything is fine, you should look for medical attention,” says Maldonado.
When to seek medical treatment
Maldonado recommends scheduling an appointment if you’re experiencing persistent pain. It’s routine for the doctor to order an X-Ray to rule out fractures, but he estimates that 85 percent of injuries don’t require surgery. “Rehabilitation depends on the severity,” says Maldonado. “On mild to moderate injuries, treatment options might be bracing—like a walking boot, ankle brace, or compression sleeve—along with an exercise program or physical therapy.”
Book an appointment with a Beacon specialist
If you’re unsure of your injury and want medical advice, visit the Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine website or call the office to book an appointment (513) 354-3700.