Pickleball, a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, is typically played in doubles or singles either indoors or outdoors. The rules of pickleball are somewhat similar to those of tennis, with some modifications to accommodate the unique characteristics of the sport.
Pickleball can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, making it a popular recreational activity. However, older players have particular risks.
In general, to reduce the risk of injuries, players can take preventive measures, such as:
- Proper Warm-up: Engage in a thorough stretching and warm-up routine before playing to prepare muscles and joints for activity.
- Technique Training: Ensure you use proper technique for strokes and movements to minimize the risk of overuse injuries.
- Footwear: Wear supportive and appropriate athletic footwear to provide stability and reduce the risk of ankle injuries.
- Conditioning: Maintain overall physical fitness and strength through regular conditioning exercises to help prevent strains and sprains.
- Rest and Recovery: Allow time for rest and recovery between sessions to avoid overuse injuries.
Despite taking the proper preventive measure, injuries can still happen. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common pickleball injuries and how to treat them.
Constant bending and quick movements can put strain on the knees, leading to knee injuries such as:
1. Torn Meniscus
A torn meniscus is a common knee injury that involves damage to the meniscus, a wedge-shaped cartilage in the knee joint. Each knee has two menisci—one on the inner side (medial) and one on the outer side (lateral). The menisci act as shock absorbers, helping to distribute weight and provide stability to the knee joint. A torn meniscus often occurs as a result of a forceful twist or rotation of the knee while bearing weight.
Treatment options for a torn meniscus vary depending on the size, location, and severity of the tear. Conservative measures may include rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.), along with physical therapy. In some cases—especially for more significant tears or when conservative methods are not effective—surgical intervention, such as arthroscopic surgery, may be recommended to repair or trim the torn meniscus, after which rehabilitation and physical therapy are often part of the recovery process to restore strength and flexibility to the knee.
2. ACL Injury
An ACL injury refers to damage to the anterior cruciate ligament, one of the major ligaments in the knee. The ACL is an important ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint by preventing excessive forward movement of the tibia (shinbone) in relation to the femur (thighbone). ACL injuries are often classified into three grades of severity, Grade 1 being mild: The ligament is stretched but not torn completely; Grade 2 being moderate: The ligament is partially torn; and Grade 3 being severe: The ligament is completely torn, resulting in joint instability.
Treatment for ACL injuries varies depending on the severity of the injury, the individual’s activity level, and their overall health. Conservative treatment may involve rest, physical therapy, and bracing, especially for mild to moderate injuries. In more severe cases—or for individuals who wish to return to high-demand activities—surgical reconstruction of the ACL may be recommended. This typically involves using a graft (often from the patient’s own hamstring or patellar tendon) to replace the torn ligament. Post-surgery rehabilitation is essential to regain strength, stability, and range of motion in the knee.
3. Patellar Tendinitis
Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shinbone). The repetitive stress on the patellar tendon can lead to microtears, inflammation, and pain.
Treatment for patellar tendinitis typically involves the R.I.C.E. method, as well as other conservative measures like rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, bracing, and activity modification. However, in severe cases—or when conservative measures are not effective—more advanced treatments such as corticosteroid injections or, rarely, surgery may be considered.
While pickleball is generally considered a low-impact sport, there is still a risk of developing elbow injuries, especially if players engage in repetitive or improper movements. Common elbow injuries that can result from pickleball include tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, elbow strains, and elbow bursitis. Of these, tennis elbow is the most common.
4. Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow, or Lateral Epicondylitis, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the outer part of the elbow. If someone plays a lot of pickleball, especially with improper technique, this can lead to small tears in the tendons and subsequent inflammation. The symptoms of tennis elbow may include pain on the outer part of the elbow—especially during activities that involve gripping or lifting—weakness in the grip and difficulty in holding objects, stiffness in the elbow— particularly in the morning—and/or tenderness around the lateral epicondyle.
Treatment for tennis elbow usually involves conservative measures, and surgery is rarely necessary. Common treatment options include rest, ice, bracing, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and/or corticosteroid injections. Recovery time can vary, but with appropriate treatment and modifications to activities, many individuals with tennis elbow experience improvement and relief from symptoms.
Shoulder injuries in pickleball can occur due to repetitive overhead motions, sudden movements, and overuse. Such injuries can include rotator cuff strain or tears, shoulder impingement syndrome, bursitis, labral tears, and tendonitis. Of these, the most common are rotator cuff injuries.
5. Rotator Cuff Strain or Tears
The rotator cuff is crucial for the stability and function of the shoulder, allowing for a wide range of motion. The repetitive overhead motions involved in pickleball, such as serving and smashing, can lead to strain on the shoulder and potential rotator cuff injuries. A strain occurs when the muscles or tendons of the rotator cuff are stretched or partially torn, whereas a tear involves a more severe disruption of the rotator cuff tissues, ranging from a partial tear to a complete tear. The symptoms of a rotator cuff strain or tear include pain, weakness, and a limited range of, or noticeable decrease in, shoulder function.
Treatment for rotator cuff injuries depends on the severity of the strain or tear, and can range from a conservative treatment of the R.I.C.E. protocol, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy for mild to moderate strains, to corticosteroid injections or surgery for severe tears or when conservative measures are ineffective.
We’re Here to Help
If you suspect any of the above injuries, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management plan. At Beach Orthopaedics, we’re here to assess your injury and provide you with a comprehensive pain management plan. Whether that’s more conservative treatment or surgery, we’ll be by your side every step of the way.
If you’re ready to learn about your options, please feel free to contact us at Beach Orthopaedics to book an appointment and we’ll ensure you’re taken care of.