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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

What are the Most Common Pickleball Injuries?

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

Pickleball is a popular summertime racquet sport in Eagle and Summit County. Pickleball melds together different aspects of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. Because of this, pickleball players are susceptible to all the injuries commonly seen in those sports.

Here's how Dr. Joseph treats the most common pickleball injuries (and how you can prevent them).

Shoulder Pain From Playing Pickleball

A common complaint from Dr. Joseph’s pickleball players is shoulder pain. Usually, this begins as a subtle pain after sport and grows into chronic, debilitating shoulder pain. This pain typically stems from one of two conditions.

1. Rotator Cuff Injuries:

Caused by excessive stress, rotator cuff tears are a common cause of shoulder pain in pickleball players over the age of 40. Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff include:

  • Pain, which can range from a dull ache to sharp and severe

  • Shoulder weakness and impacted range of motion

  • Cracking, popping, or grinding sensations when moving the shoulder

  • Difficulty lifting the arm.

A rotator cuff tear can either be partial or complete. Less severe injuries can be treated nonsurgically, using rest, physical therapy, and other conservative methods.

2. Shoulder Impingement:

Shoulder impingement is the most common cause of shoulder pain in pickleball players. Impingements occur when:

  • The tendons in the shoulder become pinched

  • A bursa in the shoulder becomes inflamed, typically seen in patients with arthritis

  • Overuse caused by the repetitive motions of pickleball

Pain caused by a shoulder impingement will not go away without medical intervention. Failing to treat a shoulder impingement properly could cause a rotator cuff tear further down the line.

To avoid major shoulder injuries seen in pickleball it’s important to take the following proactive steps:

  • Strengthen the shoulder with exercises that target the stabilizing muscles in the rotator cuff.

  • Properly warm up before participating in serious physical activity

  • Take time to rest and recovery between games

  • Listen to your body (don’t play through the pain)

If an injury does occur during pickleball, don’t wait to have your shoulder pain evaluated. The sooner your shoulder pain is treated, the sooner you can get back on the court!

Wrist and Elbow Injuries Seen in Pickleball Players

Two common pickleball injuries Dr. Joseph treats in the wrist and elbow are:

1. Pickleball Elbow:

Clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, pickleball elbow (also known as tennis elbow) is an overuse injury. Repeated swinging motions can cause micro-tears in the elbow tendons, which can lead to elbow pain, aching, and discomfort.

Symptoms of lateral epicondylitis include:

  • Burning pain in the outer elbow

  • Forearm weakness

  • Stiffness in the elbow or forearm

To learn more about this condition, click here.

2. Wrist Fracture:

Pickleball players will often have to back peddle or lunge to hit a wayward ball with their paddle, sometimes falling in the process. A wrist fracture is typically the result of a pickleball player attempting to break their fall.

A broken wrist can be:

  • Non-Displaced: Bones are still aligned properly and stable

  • Displaced: Where the bones are pushed out of alignment

  • Open: When a broken wrist bone is forced out of the skin

  • Comminuted: When the bones shatter into several different pieces

Treatment and recovery time for a broken wrist will depend on the severity of the fracture. Dr. Joseph will recommend a recovery program that is best for you and your healing.

Learn more about wrist sprains and fractures here.

To avoid pickleball injuries to the elbow and wrist, Dr. Joseph recommends:

  • Wearing proper footwear to avoid falls

  • Avoiding activity that aggravates your elbow

  • Properly warm-up to prepare the muscles and tendons for sport

  • Wearing elbow braces that reduce stress on the tendons

If you do develop elbow or shoulder pain during pickleball, seeking treatment early will get you back to sport sooner.

Pain While Playing Pickleball? Contact Team Joseph Today!

If you’re experiencing pain in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder after playing pickleball, contact Dr. Joseph today! He and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery will diagnose the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Schedule your appointment today by calling (970) 476-7220 or through our online appointment request form.

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