Pickleball, anyone? Avoid getting injured while enjoying summer sports

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing American sports and is only continuing to rise in  popularity as summer approaches. But as with many activities, injuries are likely to happen without proper technique and preparation.

Dr. DunbarArati Dunbar, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Dignity Health Medical Group — Sequoia, shares how to prevent getting hurt while engaging in fun sports this summer.

“Over the last few years, I have certainly seen more injuries attributed to pickleball,” says Dr. Dunbar. “It is one of the fastest growing sports in America and is especially popular with middle aged athletes.”

Play hard, stay safe

It is important to understand the risk of injuries when playing pickleball and other racquet sports. Slipping, diving, falling and tripping are all common ways to get hurt. Dr. Dunbar notes that the most common pickleball injuries are:

  • Calf and Achilles strains 
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee injuries

Other, but less likely, injuries can include things like wrist fractures, and strains of the shoulder, hamstring, glutes or quads. 

Prevent injuries

Fortunately, sports injuries — even from pickleball, are highly preventable. Dr. Dunbar recommends always warming up before doing any strenuous workouts or sports. “Dynamic warm-up exercises are great prior to activity,” she says. “Stretching after warm-ups can also be helpful, but don’t stretch a cold muscle.” Dr. Dunbar also stresses the importance of prioritizing stretching in people over 60 years old, because they are more likely to be injured. Another way to prevent injuries is to start slow and work your way up in speed and skill level. 

Staying hydrated and getting a substantial amount of nutrients such as carbohydrates to provide you with energy, and protein to help with muscle growth, can help prepare your body for strenuous activities. Having the proper shoes, equipment and clothing can further prevent injuries and provide support.

When to seek help 

If you sustain an injury from pickleball, you should initially treat it with the R.I.C.E protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, and an Evaluation by a medical provider. If there is a traumatic injury with a concern of a fracture, Dr. Dunbar urges people to go to an urgent care or hospital Emergency Room and consider calling 911 if there is any deformity to the injured area or inability to bear weight.

Key takeaways 

While having fun and enjoying the warm weather this summer, a little preparation and care can go a long way. Warming up, stretching, hydrating and nourishing your body before an activity can help keep injuries at bay. If you get hurt while playing a sport or being active this summer, try at-home care with R.I.C.E. or consider calling 911 if it seems more serious.

If you think you may have a serious or chronic sports injury, our “Find a Doctor” tool can help you find a Dignity Health physician near you. 

Meet Dr. Dunbar