Pickleball’s popularity has seen a meteoric rise over the past several years, with recent data from the Association of Pickleball Professionals reporting 35.5 million pickleball players in the United States alone, making it the fastest growing sport in America. As the sport increases in popularity, so does the rate of injuries associated with this sport. At Castle Rock Foot & Ankle Care, we have seen a significant increase in pickleball associated foot and ankle injuries in our practice alone. While many play year round, as the weather warms, outdoor leagues will soon begin. It is important to understand common injuries associated with the sport, as well as strategies to help prevent them.
Commonly Associated Injuries:
While pickleball is an exciting and engaging sport, there is a significant injury risk secondary to the duration of play, as well as the quick, explosive movements associated with the sport. Many common pickleball injuries can be thought of as overuse injuries, meaning they develop over time due to repetitive movements.
Plantar fasciitis - Perhaps the most common, this overuse syndrome leads to inflammation and micro-tearing of the plantar fascia at its insertion at the bottom of the heel. In more severe cases, partial or complete ruptures are possible.
Achilles Tendonitis - This condition is characterized by pain at the back of the heel and at the achilles tendon just above the heel bone. Similar to plantar fasciitis, the tendon develops acute inflammation and can be more prone to rupture in this inflamed state.
More acute injuries are also common, and are caused by a single twist or fall while playing. The most common include
Ankle/midfoot sprains - Often caused by a twist or rolling injury, these sprains lead to attenuation or damage to the ligaments of the lateral ankle or midfoot. These most commonly occur due to quick changes of direction
Achilles tendon rupture - This injury is often discussed as a common malady of the “weekend warrior,” this rupture typically occurs with quick, explosive movements and is common is any activity requiring quick bursts of speed or cutting movements.
Foot/ankle fractures - Both acute and stress related fractures are common in pickleball players
To help lower your risk of injury, you will want to be sure to use proper equipment and form when playing, and most importantly set yourself up for success with appropriate warm-up and cool-down activities. Below are the most important strategies to help prevent injuries while playing.
Dynamic warm-up and cool-down - As with any higher impact exercise, a proper, dynamic warmup is essential to help prevent muscle strains and lower risk of overuse injuries. Be sure to stretch thoroughly prior to beginning play, as well as incorporating dynamic movement into this warmup. After you finish playing, spending 5 minutes stretching, with an emphasis on your calves and hamstrings, will not only help you recover faster, but additionally keep your injury risk lower.
Exercise Regularly - In addition to pickleball, finding other exercise activities to regularly stimulate all the muscles in your body can help improve your overall fitness and lower your risk of potential injury. Strengthening exercises, especially for the legs, are most important.
Adequate Hydration - Important as a general health principle, hydration in the context of sport is especially paramount, as it plays a role in heat regulation of the body as well as helping muscles recover faster after exercise. As a general rule, you should try to drink 4-6 glasses of water a day at a minimum. Adding an electrolyte supplement during or after exercise can additionally enhance your hydration level.
Wear Quality/Supportive Shoes - A high quality, supportive court shoe can help lessen your risk of foot and ankle injuries by providing better shock absorption, as well as providing appropriate stability to the foot while playing. If you have a flat foot or other known foot deformity, a supportive insole or orthotic in the shoe can additionally help.
As you get out on the court, enjoy yourself and follow the above guidelines. Sometimes, despite doing everything right and still end up with an injury. Here at Castle Rock Foot and Ankle, we are available to help with all your foot and ankle needs, including when pickleball injuries arise, Call 303-814-1082 or visit castlerockfootandankle.com for an appointment.