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Your Healthy Family: Rise in pickleball-related injuries

Posted at 8:24 AM, Jul 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-26 08:26:25-04

The number of people playing pickleball has grown by 159 percent in the last three years. And as the number of people who play the game goes up, so does the number of injuries.

Robbin Murray said for her, pickleball isn’t just a sport — it’s a way to stay social.

"You get to run around and hit the ball and play with people," she said.

But the game has taken a toll on her body. She said her first pickleball injury was to her foot from playing too much.

"I would play every day and it's so, in a good way, addictive that people just play until they're ready to drop," Murray said.

She said she later tore her meniscus in her knee, then had tendonitis in her bicep from playing so much. Doctors say pickleball is a great way to stay active, but it's not without some risk. Just this year, researchers say pickleball will cause close to 67,000 emergency room visits, 366,000 outpatient visits, and 9,000 outpatient surgeries.

"I would say on a daily basis, we see a couple of people who are getting injured in pickleball," Doctor Luis Gandara, who works in Sports Medicine at Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute, said.

He said most of his patients with pickleball injuries are seniors. Dr. Gandara says to make sure you use proper equipment, understand the game, and strengthen your lower body and core to help with balance and coordination.

"Always have fun but always with moderation," he said.

Murray said she’s getting regular knee gel injections and wears a brace, but is still able to play the game she loves about twice a week.

"It took me a while to learn the hard way that when you love something, you can't go out full force the whole time like that in pickleball," she said.

A 2021 study found that 60 percent of pickleball injuries in our country were sprains, strains and fractures; 20 percent were bruises, abrasions, or internal injuries; and fewer than 10 percent were lacerations or dislocations.

Dr. Gandara says delaying medical care can make an injury worse, so if you’re hurt, make sure to see your provider.