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What's Up with Pickleball!

Play Safely and Have Fun | By Sara Lee Ash, PPR Certified Professional

A new study of pickleball injuries, using data from 100 U.S. emergency departments, focused on the growing number of pickleball related injuries.  This research reported a growing number of fractures of upper-body bones, such as those in forearms and wrists of women, while fractures of hips and femurs are more likely in men – particularly for those over 60.  There are several things we can do to reduce these injuries, beginning with wearing court shoes (not just any kind of rubber-soled shoes), always warming up before playing and learning to fall.  How should you fall?  Try not to break your fall by extending your hands, but rather, tuck your hands and arms in against your body, try to land on a softer part of your body (like on your side, just below your shoulder), and transfer the energy from your body’s impact with the ground by rolling.
There’s another factor related to pickleball injuries that we need to consider.  In the words of Dr. Eric Bowman, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, “It’s not enough to just pick up a paddle and get out there,” he said. “As with any sport, you have to learn the mechanics and the form that leads to better performance and injury prevention.”  It’s easy to begin playing pickleball in a day or two after you learn the rules and understand the basic strokes of the game.  That’s about all you need to play the game to get some exercise and enjoy the social aspects of the game.
However, when casual players watch some YouTube videos or notice competitive teams practicing, they realize there’s another way to play pickleball.  Casual players often only move a few feet from their baselines while hitting balls using ground strokes back and forth against their opponents.  This casual style of play can be fun, exciting, and presents a very small chance of injury.

A competitive style of play, on the other hand, requires many more rapid movements, sudden stops and starts, a variety of shots, more complex playing strategies, a much different skill set, and a higher level of physical conditioning.  Transitioning from casual to competitive play for 60+ year-old players can be frustrating and potentially more dangerous.  Unless you’ve played competitive tennis in recent years, consider getting some training before jumping from casual to competitive pickleball.  You will develop the knowledge and skills you need more quickly, have more fun, and be more likely to avoid injury playing pickleball competitively.   


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