Pickleball has experienced a massive surge in popularity in recent years and is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. It has gained a following among people of all ages due to its social nature, easy-to-learn rules and relatively low impact on the body. Pickleball courts have popped up in parks and recreational facilities to meet the growing demand.
1. Warm up. Don’t just hop out of the car and right into a full-speed match. “Spend some time stretching, especially any sore or tight joints you may have, and hit some rallies to loosen up the arms and legs before diving full speed,” says Dr. Cash. Pickleball works your entire body, so make sure your body is ready to go.
2. Listen to your body. If your knees start to ache and swell after three games, it may be time for rest. Pickleball can be quite addictive! If you overdo it, you could end up with an overuse injury that will keep you sidelined for weeks. When your body is tired, you are more prone to injury, so be in tune with how your body is feeling and know when to call it quits for the day. “Consider past injuries or surgeries,” says Dr. Cash. “Take proper precautions like stretching, supportive braces or physical therapy to avoid re-aggravating injuries. This is particularly important if you have a history of ACL reconstruction, total hip or knee replacement or tennis elbow.”
3. Be intentional with your recovery. Stay well-hydrated before, during and after playing. Apply an icepack to any sore joints after to help reduce swelling and inflammation. If needed, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or Aleve can also help with achy joints. But be sure to check with your doctor if you are unsure if you can take these medications (known as NSAIDs). Be sure to give yourself adequate recovery days between playing. Proper precautions to rest and recover between sessions can allow for continued play without injuries slowing you down.
4. Know when to seek help. Pickleball most commonly can cause pain in the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Pickleball is overall a very safe sport, and most injuries or ailments are mild. Generally, any pain that doesn’t improve after a week should be evaluated by a doctor. Also, if you have any “acute” injuries — feeling a painful pop, sudden or severe pain or swelling in a joint, weakness or limited range of motion — these should be evaluated more urgently. If a twist, tear, strain or sprain is keeping you from enjoying an activity like pickleball, Roper St. Francis provides fast access to orthopedic care. With more than a dozen convenient locations throughout the Tri-County area, we offer fast appointments and simple online scheduling – no referral necessary. Schedule an orthopedic appointment online or call (843) 402-CARE.