Prevent pickleball injuries with physical therapy

People playing pickleball

By Cara Konlian, MSPT, CEO, Aquacare Physical Therapy

Are you a pickler?

Picklers are people who play pickleball, named the fastest-growing sport in America three years in a row.

People of all ages embrace pickleball because it is a fun fast-paced game that is competitive but also creates camaraderie among players.

Any healthcare provider will tell you that exercise is the key to a long and healthy life. However, overdoing it on the pickleball court can lead to life-changing injuries.

One of the most common injuries is a torn rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is part of your shoulder and it is injured most often during activities that include repeatedly reaching overhead.

This type of injury can cause considerable shoulder pain, especially during movement and activity. The range of problems can vary from tendonitis and bursitis to a complete tear of the tendon. In severe cases, this can lead to weakness and loss of arm functionality.

Most adults who use their shoulders are at risk. For many people, rotator cuff damage appears over time.

While rotator cuff tears are not preventable, there are many ways to prevent and recover from this injury.

The top way to prevent all injuries is by warming up, stretching, and exercising on a regular schedule. We see many injuries when a person takes time off from an activity and then jumps back in full-throttle. 

We often don’t realize how our bodies lose strength over even a short time of inactivity. During the hottest days of the summer, you may choose to sit inside and avoid the pickleball courts. However, even just a few days of inactivity can cause you to have reduced strength when you return to the court.

In addition to stretching, it is a good idea to exercise in between athletic sessions. Focus on body-weight exercises such as HIIT (high-intensity interval training) programs, yoga or pilates. These types of weight-bearing exercises have been shown to be better for overall strength than running, walking, or gym workouts. 

In addition, weight-bearing exercises improve your overall balance and strengthen your entire body rather than just one set of muscles.

If you have been experiencing shoulder pain, make an appointment with your doctor to determine if it is just pain or a torn rotator cuff. Surgery is the only way to treat a torn rotator cuff. The alternative is living with it, which can be both painful and limiting.

Waiting to treat a torn rotator cuff is not a good idea because as you wait, the tear enlarges and becomes more difficult to repair. Even though small tears may not cause many symptoms, they are persistent and can progress to massive. If you believe you may have torn your rotator cuff, it is best to have it looked at quickly to avoid future complications.

Five steps to avoid pickleball injuries:

  • Warm up prior by doing a brisk walk or jog. You should sweat lightly.
  • Stretch your shoulders, lower back, leg muscles and joints to try to get them as flexible as possible.
  • During the match, hydrate often. 
  • After a match or during a break, keep your body loose by stretching sore muscles.
  • Cool down after. Consider using an ice pack for 20 minutes after matches for any body part that is achy or sore. 

For those with shoulder pain and those who have gone through rotator cuff surgery, physical therapy can help you learn how to strengthen those shoulder muscles to prevent and avoid future injuries.

Aquacare offers one-on-one, hour-long physical therapy sessions at 11 locations in Delaware and Maryland. Call the location nearest you, our main line at 844-547-7432, or schedule an appointment online: 

Comments are closed.