Pickleball is growing in popularity in the United States. You might not know about it (I have never played myself), but thousands of people across the country play it. I see many patients with pickleball injuries. In this video, I discuss 5 common injuries in the sport.
An ankle sprain is a traumatic injury to one or more of the ligaments that stabilizes the ankle joint. Ankle sprains most frequently involve the ligaments on the lateral side of the ankle, but they can involve the medial ankle ligaments or the syndesmosis of the ankle. They can vary in severity, from stretching one or more of the ligaments, to partial or complete tears. Therefore the time involved in the recovery process can vary greatly.
A pickleball player can step awkwardly changing directions, leading to a sprained ankle.
Achilles tendonitis or Achilles tendon rupture
Achilles tendonitis refers to inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This condition usually affects running athletes, but you can develop it in pickleball for repeated sprints and changing direction. It’s thought to be an overuse injury. You might experience pain and swelling at the area of tendonitis within the Achilles tendon.
An Achilles tendon rupture is a traumatic tear of the Achilles tendon that connects the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle complex in the calf to the calcaneus (heel bone) in the foot. It often results from a noncontact mechanism, such as abruptly changing directions or immediately sprinting from a standing position.
Hamstring or quadriceps muscle strain
Hamstring or quadriceps strains are injuries to the hamstring muscles or quadriceps muscles or the tendons that attach them to bones at the hip and the knee. They commonly occur in sports that involve sprinting, but you can suffer one in pickleball from lunging to make a shot. They are painful injuries that can range from stretching the muscle fibers, to partial tears, or to complete muscle tears. Unless the tendon pulls off the bone, most of these injuries heal without surgery.
Shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tear
Shoulder impingement is a somewhat global term used to describe problems with the rotator cuff, often commonly referred to as “tendinitis” or “bursitis.” The rotator cuff tendons can get irritated as they rub against the undersurface of the acromion with overhead motions while playing the sport. The bursa between the acromion and the tendons can get inflamed, causing shoulder pain. In addition, there can be some underlying tendinopathy in one of the rotator cuff tendons. The overall constellation of problems creates a very painful shoulder.
You could also develop a rotator cuff tear, involving pain and weakness with these activities.
A wrist fracture can occur in pickleball when you fall and try to break your fall with your outstretched hand. The injury is usually a distal radius fracture.
A distal radius fracture is a break at the end of the radius at the wrist. If the fracture is nondisplaced or minimally displaced, the doctor might treat it by placing you in a cast or brace until it heals. If the fracture is displaced, it usually requires surgical fixation to hold the bone in the appropriate position until it heals.
Watch this video to learn more about how these injuries can occur in pickleball. If you play pickleball, do what you can to try to avoid these injuries. If you do suffer an injury in the sport, see an orthopedic surgeon to treat it and return to the sport quickly and safely.