7 pickleball safety tips you need to know

A pickleball paddle and ball on the pickle ball court

Pickleball is all the rage, with thousands of new players picking up a paddle every month. It’s America’s fastest growing sport, and its popularity is on the rise in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, injuries from playing pickleball are also on the rise. In fact, pickleball injuries will cost Americans an estimated $400 million this year.

“Pickleball is fun and it gets people moving,” says Benjamin Johnson, exercise specialist for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “But as with any sport, there’s always the possibility for injury. Fortunately, taking a few precautions can reduce your risk of getting hurt.”

How to stay safe on the pickleball court

Benjamin Johnson: Pickleball is a great way to be active and get your steps in. You’re increasing your cardio, and with all those lateral movements and you’re working on your balance at the same time.

But you do have to watch out for injuries. Here are a few tips to reduce the likelihood of getting sidelined from your favorite new sport:

  1. Start slow if you’re new to pickleball. Don’t try to play at 100%. When people start exercising for the first time—or the first time in a long time—they sometimes overdo it. That’s when they’re more likely to get injured. Start out by trying to hit back and forth with a friend. See how long you can keep the volley going. Later, you can work up to games and matches.
  2. Assess the court for safety before playing. USA Pickleball recommends not playing on wet courts because you could slip and fall. Watch out for obstacles in the playing area around the court, too.
  3. Wear appropriate shoes. Choose a shoe with good grip that’s designed for multi-directional movement. Running shoes are great for forward movement, but they don’t offer the necessary support for those lateral movements. You also want to consider the court surface when buying a pickleball shoe, since an outdoor court may require a more durable shoe than an indoor court.
  4. Wear safety goggles. You don’t want to take a ball—or a paddle—to the eye during a match. There are a number of different styles to choose from, but you do want to make sure you choose eyewear with shatterproof lenses.
  5. Warm up before playing. You could also do a little light jogging or walking, and perhaps some side-to-side shuffles to warm up.
  6. Don’t run backwards. Experts caution that you’re most likely to slip or trip and fall if you try to run backwards to return a shot. Instead, turn sideways and shuffle.
  7. Protect your shoulders. Many pickleball injuries are ankle and foot-related, but you can hurt your shoulders, too. Some gentle shoulder stretches before you play can go a long way to preventing injury.

If you do get injured

Benjamin Johnson: Even if you take all these precautions, it’s still possible to get hurt. Hopefully, it’s a minor injury. If it’s just a sore muscle or a minor tweak, it should heal relatively quickly with a little time and rest. If your symptoms remain after a couple of weeks, however, you should see a doctor.

Benjamin Johnson provides exercises to strengthen core muscles

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.