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Five Tips for Avoiding Pickleball Injuries

Strategy & Technique Frank Cerabino 02-14-2024

An osteopathic medical school in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, offered free pickleball injury prevention screenings to local players. 

“People hear that pickleball is a cross between ping pong and tennis, and they treat it like they’re playing ping pong – but they should treat it like they’re about to play tennis,” Elizabeth Chaffin told The Pickler.

Dr. Chaffin is the Director of Clinical Education in the Department of Physical Therapy at the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), in Suwanee. 

She has worked for more than 25 years as a physical therapist and athletic trainer, helping everyone from recreational players, to college students to adult professionals. Chaffin has also served as the manager of medical services for the United States Tennis Association.

Here are her top five tips for pickleball players to avoid injuries:

1. Warm up before you play

Don’t go from the car directly to the court. A total body warm-up before you play can prevent an injury on the court.

2. Start slow

Gradually build up your playing time. Overdoing it too soon can lead to unnecessary injuries.

3. Use the correct equipment

Play in court shoes, not running shoes. Shoes designed for pickleball and tennis players provide needed lateral support that’s missing in running shoes. 

Also, use a paddle that’s properly weighted for you in order to avoid elbow and shoulder issues.

4. Take a lesson, especially if you’re just starting to play 

Learning the proper techniques for players can significantly decrease the chance of injury.

For example, many pickleball players get injured due to falling while backpedaling for lobs, rather than using the proper turn and step technique.

5. Get a screening

Before getting on the court, new players who haven’t been physically active recently or pickleball players who have developed chronic injuries or conditions should consider physical therapy and/or a physical injury prevention screening to assess strength, range of motion, flexibility, balance and functional mobility. 

This will identify areas for improvement. 

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