When playing pickleball, an ounce of prevention goes a long way


Among American sporting enthusiasts, there are millions of pickleball players. For those already involved in the sport or considering trying it, Bergen Medical Associates’ Sports Medicine team explains how preventative measures can help keep you at the top of your game.

If you haven’t tried pickleball yet, you’re in for a treat.

A popular new pastime that’s adding a remarkable number of new players every year, the sport of pickleball has recently taken the country by storm. Players say it’s a fun, competitive and social pastime for people of all ages and skill levels.

The impressive statistics on pickleball include:

  • There are nearly 9 million pickleball players(or “picklers,” as they’ve been nicknamed by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association) in the U.S., a number that has nearly doubled since 2021, according to The Pickleball Player.
  • Pickleball has experienced growth of 159% (over 50% per year) for the three-year periodfrom 2020-22, making it the fastest-growing sport in America for the last three years.
  • There are nearly 11,000 places to play pickleball in the U.S. as of early 2023, and more facilities are being built every month.
  • “Picklers averaged a heart rate of 109 beats per minute and burned 354 calories per hour” — activity that equates to a moderate-intensity workout like such other sports as hiking, yoga and water aerobics, according to a recent study done at Western Colorado University.
  • People who played pickleball for one hour every other day for six weeks experienced significant improvements in their cholesterol level, blood pressure and cardiovascular fitness, according to the same study.

Pickleball, described as a blend of tennis, pingpong and badminton, offers a range of benefits, especially for individuals unable to play more demanding sports such as tennis due to injuries, restrictions or other factors.

Pickleball uses a plastic ball (like a Wiffle ball) that doesn’t bounce as much, fly as fast or hit as hard as a tennis ball, and the paddle used is shorter, lighter and easier to control than a tennis racket. Physical demands on players are reduced because pickleball courts are smaller than tennis courts (as many as four pickleball courts could fit in the general area of one tennis court) and pickleball is often played as a doubles game, with much less running and ground to cover. Due to pickleball’s slower pace and underhand serves (versus the overhand ones common to tennis), players are less likely to experience the potential shoulder injuries and difficult returns associated with tennis.

Social benefits of pickleball for players include the joys of participating in a group sport, feel-good endorphins and help avoiding isolation, warding off depression, easing anxiety and positively connecting to others.

An Ounce of Prevention

It’s worth noting, however, that pickleball is associated with a risk of injuries, which, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, include sprains and rotator cuff pain, among others.

Dr. Samantha Rosenzweig

Dr. Samantha Rosenzweig

“Some of the pickleball injuries I’ve seen are similar to those sustained playing tennis,” said Samantha Rosenzweig, DPM, podiatrist and a member of the Sports Medicine team at Bergen Medical Associates, which has six offices throughout Bergen County. “These include lateral ankle pain from side-to-side movements, plantar fasciitis and inferior calcaneal bursitis from pounding on court surfaces, and Achilles tendon pain from lack of stretching.”

“On the rheumatology side, other injuries triggered by pickleball can include tendonitis of the ankle, knee and shoulder; tennis elbow; and low back and neck strain,” added Jeff Chung, MD, rheumatologist at Bergen Medical Associates.

Dr. Jeff Chung

Dr. Jeff Chung

“Due to repetitive movements of the upper extremities (e.g., the wrist, elbow and shoulder) in any racket sport, tendonitis as well as tendon strains and rotator cuff tears can be common in pickleball,” concurred Bergen Medical Associates rheumatologist Deana Nes, DO.

Deana Nes, D.O.

Dr. Deana Nes

Bergen Medical Associates’ Sports Medicine team members offer the following strategies to help prevent common pickleball injuries and keep you in the game:

  • Engage in a Good Warm Up— Maintain a regular fitness exercise regimen with a good stretching protocol to help warm up muscles and promote flexibility. Essential steps in preventing injury in pickleball (and in any sport) include warming up with some mild cardio exercise such as jogging as well as stretching the various muscle groups before you start playing.
  • Ease in Slowly— Remember that it’s not safe for anyone to go from inactivity to high activity very quickly. Start slow and continue ramping up slowly.
  • Choose Proper Footwear— Choose foot gear that’s appropriate for the specific lateral movement of pickleball. Get properly fitted for shoes by a knowledgeable professional.
  • Hydrate— Try not to play outdoors during extreme heat conditions, but if you do, stay well hydrated to prevent dangerous complications, which can include heat stroke.
  • Be Deliberate— Pickleball players are encouraged to maintain a wide ready position stance during the game to ensure a strong footing and to help prevent falls. They should also avoid backpedaling to return an overhead shot, which can jeopardize their balance.

Want to get in the game? Follow the above tips to partake in the joys of pickleball in a safe way and reap the many health benefits of one of America’s most popular new sports.


Hit the Court

Ready to try your hand at pickleball? Indoor and outdoor places to play the sport in Bergen County include:

Or visit New Jersey Pickleball at https://www.newjerseypickleball.com/outdoorcourts for pickleball facilities located throughout New Jersey.

For More Information

With offices in Emerson, Paramus (two), Ridgewood, Northvale and Montvale, Bergen Medical Associates offers primary care and 12 areas of specialized care. Patients enjoy the “one-stop shopping” approach where so many medical services are provided under one umbrella. The multi-specialty group fosters an environment of collaboration among the physicians, which results in a seamless continuum of care for patients. For more information, contact us today or call 201-967-8221.

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