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Common Pickleball Injuries

Robert J. Snyder, MDRobert J. Snyder, MD

Pickleball has gained significant popularity worldwide, combining elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, using a paddle and a perforated plastic ball.  While it attracts players of all ages and skill levels, it is particularly appealing to older adults, because it is played on a smaller court than tennis (less running), is low-impact, social and fun!  Pickleball has become so popular that many resorts and communities across the United States have turned their once busy tennis courts into pickleball courts.  In fact, it may be difficult to find a real tennis court in your community anymore!

While the game is generally considered low impact, the repetitive nature of certain movements and the quick lateral movements required can lead to specific orthopaedic injuries, as can improper technique, overuse, and falls on the court of play.

Now, let’s explore some of the most common pickleball injuries I encounter in my orthopedic practice and what I recommend for treatment.

Pickleball Shoulder Injuries

Repetitive overhead swings and serves may predispose players to rotator cuff injuries, characterized by shoulder pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. These overhead motions can also lead to impingement of the rotator cuff tendons and shoulder bursa, causing pain and inflammation in the shoulder.

  • Treatment: NSAIDs (if tolerated) for pain and inflammation, rest, ice, physical therapy focusing on strengthening exercises, oral steroids, or corticosteroid injections.  In severe cases, ambulatory surgical intervention may be required.

Pickleball Elbow Injuries

Tennis Elbow – The repetitive gripping and swinging motions in pickleball can strain the extensor tendons of the forearm, resulting in lateral epicondylitis and localized pain around the elbow.

Golfer’s Elbow – Overuse of the wrist flexors during volleys and backhand shots can lead to medial epicondylitis, causing pain and tenderness on the inner aspect of the elbow.

  • Treatment: NSAIDs (if tolerated) for pain and inflammation, rest, ice, use of a compression brace, and elevation (R.I.C.E.), physical therapy, consistent strengthening exercises using low weight progressing to higher weight over time, oral steroids, or corticosteroid injections.  For resistant cases, PRP injections or ambulatory surgery.

Pickleball Knee Injuries

Jumping and quick lateral movements can strain the patellar tendon, leading to patellar tendonitis and anterior knee pain. Sudden pivoting or twisting maneuvers may predispose players to meniscal tears, characterized by joint line pain, swelling, and mechanical symptoms.

  • Treatment: NSAIDs (if tolerated) for pain and inflammation, rest, ice, use of a compression bandage or brace, and elevation (R.I.C.E.), physical therapy, consistent strengthening exercises, oral steroids, or corticosteroid injections.  For resistant cases, PRP injections or outpatient surgery.

Pickleball Ankle Injuries

Abrupt changes in direction, pivoting, or landing awkwardly can result in ankle sprains, manifesting as pain, swelling, and instability.

  • Treatment: NSAIDs (if tolerated) for pain and inflammation, activity modification, ice, use of a compression bandage/taping and walking boot or brace, and elevation (R.I.C.E.), physical therapy, oral steroids, or corticosteroid injections.  For severe cases with multiple tendon or ligament tears, outpatient surgery may be required to repair the torn soft tissues.

 

 

 

 

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