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How to Prevent Pickleball Injuries (Ankle Sprains, Tennis Elbow, and Calf Injury)

Pickleball is a fast-growing and enjoyable sport that appeals to people of all ages and skill levels. While it is generally considered a low-impact activity, players are not immune to injuries.

So, how do we prevent pickleball injuries, and what are the common injuries? Common pickleball injuries can result from various factors, including ankle sprains, calf pickleball injuries, muscle strains, and knee injuries.

However, with the right approach and preventive measures, players can significantly reduce the risk of these injuries and continue enjoying the game safely.

How to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

Players should warm up before each game to prevent these common injuries, use proper equipment, maintain good technique, stay hydrated, and listen to their bodies.

How to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

It’s essential to take appropriate measures to reduce the risk of pickleball injuries and ensure a safe and enjoyable pickleball experience.

To prevent pickleball injuries, you can follow these guidelines:

1. Warm-up: Always start with a proper warm-up before playing pickleball. Warm-up exercises help increase blood flow to your muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce the risk of injury.

2. Use proper equipment: Use the appropriate pickleball paddle and wear supportive, well-fitted footwear for court sports. The right equipment can help protect your joints and prevent strain.

3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after playing to prevent dehydration and cramping.

4. Learn proper technique: Take lessons from a qualified instructor to learn the correct techniques for serving, hitting, and moving on the court. Proper technique can prevent overuse injuries and strain on your body.

5. Avoid overexertion: Know your limits and pace yourself during games. Overexertion can lead to fatigue and increase the risk of injuries.

6. Use protective gear: Consider wearing knee pads, elbow pads, or wrist guards, especially if you have a history of joint issues or play competitively.

7. Be mindful of your surroundings: Be aware of other players on the court to avoid collisions or accidents.

8. Cross-train: Engage in various physical activities to maintain overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries.

9. Listen to your body: If you feel pain or discomfort during or after playing pickleball, take it as a signal to rest and recover. Pushing through pain can lead to more severe injuries.

10. Strengthen and stretch: Include strength training and flexibility exercises in your routine to support your joints and improve your overall performance.

11. Cool down: After playing, cool down with gentle stretches to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.

Most Common Pickleball Injuries Physical Therapy

Physical therapists commonly see several types of pickleball-related injuries in their practice. Among the most frequent injuries are sprained ankles, strains or tears in the shoulder and elbow and knee injuries. This is the player’s biggest mistake, which most players do.

However, Sprained ankles occur due to the quick lateral movements and changes in direction required in pickleball, which can lead to rolling or twisting the ankle. Shoulder and elbow injuries often result from repetitive overhead shots and incorrect techniques.

The rapid stop-and-start movements during the game can also contribute to knee injuries, such as ligament strains or meniscus tears. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process for these injuries, focusing on reducing pain and inflammation, restoring joint and muscle function, and implementing exercises to improve flexibility, strength, and proper biomechanics.

Additionally, physical therapists may educate patients on injury prevention strategies and guide safe techniques to avoid further injuries during pickleball play.

Common Pickleball Injuries

Some common injuries from playing pickleball include sprained ankles, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), rotator cuff injuries, knee injuries, muscle strains, back pain, jammed fingers, blisters, and dehydration or heat-related issues.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are a frequent occurrence in pickleball due to the game’s dynamic nature, involving quick lateral movements and abrupt changes in direction.

Players often land awkwardly or twist their ankles while running on the court, leading to ligament sprains or strains.

Most Common Pickleball Injuries Physical Therapy

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is caused by repetitive forearm and wrist motions, such as swinging the paddle during play. Over time, this can lead to inflammation and pain in the outer part of the elbow.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries are common in pickleball players who frequently use overhead shots. The repetitive motion of serving and hitting overhead can strain the muscles and tendons in the shoulder, leading to rotator cuff tears or inflammation.

If you suffer from a rotator cuff, you can wear bunions of pickleball shoes to play games.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries, such as ligament strains or meniscus tears, can result from pickleball’s rapid stop-and-start movements and pivoting. The high impact on the knees during play can be particularly problematic for players with pre-existing knee issues.

Muscle Strains

Muscle strains are pickleball calf injuries, often occurring in the hamstrings, quadriceps, or calf muscles. These strains can happen due to sudden bursts of acceleration or deceleration, improper movement mechanics, or overexertion during intense play.

Back Pain

Back pain can also result from pickleball, especially in players with weak core muscles or poor posture. The repeated twisting, bending, and quick movements on the court can strain the back and lead to discomfort.

Jammed Fingers

Jammed fingers and blisters are minor but prevalent injuries in pickleball. However, this fast-paced pickleball game can lead to accidental contact with the ball or paddle, causing finger injuries or blisters on the hands from gripping the paddle tightly.

Additionally, players must be cautious about dehydration and heat-related issues, especially outdoors in hot weather. Failure to stay adequately hydrated can result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which can be serious and require immediate attention.

Pickleball Calf Injury

A pickleball calf injury refers to any damage or strain that occurs in the calf muscles while playing the sport of pickleball. The calf muscles are located at the back of the lower leg. They provide power and stability during movements like running, jumping, and quick direction changes on the court.

Pickleball Calf Injury

Calf injuries in pickleball can occur due to various reasons. One common cause is overuse, especially when players engage in prolonged, intense play without sufficient rest. The repetitive nature of pickleball, with frequent start-and-stop motions, can lead to muscle fatigue and strain in the calf muscles.

Another common factor contributing to calf injuries is improper warm-up or inadequate stretching before playing. Without proper preparation, the calf muscles may not be adequately prepared for the demands of the game, increasing the risk of injury.

Sometimes, sudden explosive movements, such as sprinting to reach the ball or making quick lateral changes, can lead to calf muscle strains or even partial tears.

So, What are the Symptoms of the Pickleball Calf Injury?

The symptoms of a pickleball calf injury may include sharp pain, aching, or tightness in the calf area. Players may also experience swelling, bruising, or difficulty putting weight on the affected leg.

To prevent calf injuries in pickleball, it’s crucial to warm up thoroughly before each game, including dynamic stretches that target the calf muscles. Incorporating strength and flexibility exercises for the calves into regular training routines can also help improve their resilience.

Players should listen to their bodies and avoid pushing through pain or fatigue, which can exacerbate existing issues. Rest and recovery are essential to allow the calf muscles to heal properly.

If a calf injury occurs during pickleball, it is essential to stop playing immediately and follow the RICE protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Applying ice to the affected area, wearing compression garments, and keeping the leg elevated can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

For more severe calf injuries, or if the pain persists despite self-care measures, it is advisable to seek medical attention from a healthcare professional or a sports medicine specialist. Physical therapy may be recommended to facilitate recovery and prevent future injuries by addressing muscle imbalances and providing appropriate rehabilitation exercises.

Pickleball Injury Statistics

According to the data, the wrist is the most commonly injured body part in pickleball, accounting for 13.2% of reported injuries. Closely behind are lower leg injuries, comprising 12.9% of the reported cases. 

Head and lower trunk injuries are also significant, making up 11.9% and 11.6% of pickleball injuries. Other reported injuries include those to the ankle, knee, shoulder, finger, and face.

These statistics highlight the importance of protecting vulnerable areas such as the wrist and lower leg during pickleball. It also emphasizes the need for players to focus on injury prevention strategies, including proper warm-up routines, wearing protective gear, and maintaining correct techniques.

As pickleball continues to gain popularity, understanding and addressing these common pickleball injury trends and how to prevent them from minimizing the risk of injuries and enhancing overall player well-being.


Players can significantly reduce the risk of common pickleball injuries by proactively preventing injury and adopting proper techniques. With a focus on warm-up exercises, appropriate equipment, and staying mindful of their bodies, pickleball enthusiasts can continue to relish the game while minimizing the chances of injury and maximizing their overall well-being.

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