Pickleball might not be all fun and games

What does an aging tennis player do when defending his 1,404 square feet of playing space is no longer effective? They join their fellow baby boomers and switch to the game of pickleball. Do a quick internet search and you’ll find that pickleball is touted as the fastest growing sport in America.

A cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong, the pace of the game still offers great exercise, but instead of power serves and blistering volleys dominating the game, skill prevails. Its popularity comes from the fact that a wide range of age groups find it fun, it can be picked up quickly, the court is smaller (only 484 square feet) and it is usually played as doubles so there is a great social aspect to it. the game.

I’m not going to cover the details on how to play the game or the best team. What I am going to focus on is how to avoid getting injured while playing.

Pickleball is similar to other racket sports in that you move around the court and hit a ball with a paddle. That means the injuries will be similar to those seen in tennis, racquetball, or badminton. However, taking a few precautions and adding some evidence-based practices can go a long way to help prevent injuries. My first recommendation is to invest in a good pair of court shoes right away to minimize twisting and twisting at the knees. A proper court shoe will give you the proper grip to help prevent ankle or knee sprains.

The 4 Most Common Types of Pickleball Injuries

“Pickleball Injuries in Older Adults” from Baylor College of Medicine is an excellent article. Sports medicine experts give a very comprehensive explanation of what they see most, which is shoulder injuries. They explain how they happen and review the best treatment plans. As I learned from the guide Erin Erb, PT, MS called Stabilizing the Shoulder Girdle, “The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body and also the least stable.”

It’s not until the end of the article that you’ll see the other three most common types of pickleball injuries. So, I’ll give you the full list of all four below. Also, I have highlighted the area of ​​the body where these types of injuries would occur.

  1. Rotator cuff tendons: shoulder.
  2. Meniscus tears: knee.
  3. Tendon ruptures: Achilles, around the knee, biceps or shoulder.
  4. Worsening of arthritic knees (may cause pain and swelling).

Although the article mentions the importance of warming up, stretching, maintaining flexibility, and improving muscle and joint strength, it is brief on details. As a personal trainer who specializes in working with older adults, I’m happy to cover the warm-ups and stretches I use to help keep my clients injury-free. I will also review the best way seniors can maintain flexibility and muscle/joint strength.

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Don’t skip warmups

Warming up before exercising is very important to prevent injuries. It should be a full-body warm-up that slowly increases your heart rate to increase blood and oxygen circulation. This helps make muscles more flexible and lubricates joints so they move more freely. This decreases the risk of a tear, sprain, or strain. A warm-up should last between 5 and 10 minutes. If the air temperature is cool or you have a lot of stiff joints, you should consider heating longer or long enough to start to feel warm and more flexible.

Here is a full body warm-up sequence that I use frequently when training older people.

Start with a slow walk for 1-2 minutes. Add alternating arm swings, front to back. As you start to feel more flexible, walk faster and make bigger arm movements. Moving your legs and arms together helps increase your heart rate and increases the flow of blood and oxygen. Here’s the rest of the warm-up/stretch sequence:

  • Knee/hip warm-ups: Try doing high knee marches, a light jog (both can be done in the same spot), or shallow air squats. Add arm circles, arm swings, alternating overhead arm reaches, or front punches. Repeat your choice of knee/hip warm-up for at least 1 minute.
  • Core/Back Stretches: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, extend right arm across body past left shoulder, twisting torso slightly. Hold for a count of two and return to center. Using your left arm, reach past your right shoulder, keeping for a count of two. Repeat, alternating your arms to each side for at least 1 minute (this stretch can also be done by stretching your arms directly overhead instead of across your body).
  • Shoulder warm-up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward by twisting at the hips. Fully relax one arm and one shoulder. Imagine you are stirring a large pot and turn your arm/shoulder clockwise for 6-8 stirs. Reverse and go counterclockwise with the same arm. Switch arms/shoulders and repeat. This is an excellent warm-up for the rotator cuff. Caution, do not lean forward or turn beyond a 45 degree angle.
  • Ankle warm-up: Sit or stand while holding and rotating each ankle clockwise then counterclockwise 6-8 times each. Then point and flex each foot 6-8 times each. This also helps warm up the Achilles tendon.
  • Wrist warm-up: Interlace fingers and draw large horizontal figure eights 10-12 times moving wrists freely.
  • Hand/Grip Warm-ups: Start with palms facing up, spread fingers apart, make a fist tightly, and open as you reopen fingers. Repeat 6-8 times. Next, turn your hands palms down and repeat spreading your fingers apart and forming a tight fist another 6-8 times.
  • Elbow warm-up: While standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, make a fist and move your arms up and down to mimic a bicep curl, keeping your arms close to your sides. Repeat the curls 10-12 times.
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Pro Tip: As you warm up, practice good posture to help improve lung capacity and keep your joints and muscles in better alignment. This will help lower your risk of injury overall and improve balance for your activities.

Give your body a chance to adapt

When starting pickleball, or any new sport, I can’t stress enough how important it is to start slow. Day one is not the time to jump in for a full hour (or more) of gameplay. Even if you’ve been playing tennis and switched to pickleball, it’s important to give your body a chance to adjust. Try to play just one game or maybe play for 15-20 minutes. Do this for the first week or at least three consecutive outings. Gradually adding more game time. This will help you prevent pain and soreness from overused muscles, as well as prevent injury.

Don’t skip your cool down and stretches

Adding a cool down and stretching after your workout is just as important as the warm up. For a cool down, the goal is to get your heart rate back to normal to prevent blood from pooling in your extremities, which could cause dizziness. A slow walk works perfectly.

Stretches are intended to increase flexibility, relieving stress on the joints and thus preventing post-game strain, stiffness or soreness. Any of the warm-up exercises I’ve included could also be used as a stretch or you can check out Verywell Fit’s “8 Relaxing Full Body Stretches.”

Pro Tip: Stretching is also strengthening muscles. It helps increase the flow of blood and oxygen through the tissues, which can help prevent swelling in arthritic joints.

Keep your muscles and joints strong

The strength of your muscles and joints play an important role in preventing injuries. Although most people instantly think of lifting weights, there are actually many other ways to improve muscular strength. Exercise programs or classes that work the entire body will be the most beneficial.

Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates or Barre classes will build strength. Resistance bands or suspension training (TRX) increase strength. These forms of strength training programs are easier on the joints than regular weight lifting with dumbbells or barbells. Weight machines are an option if you belong to a gym or AND has them. To get the most benefit, have a trainer go over (or review) the proper way to use the machines.

Hire a personal trainer who specializes in fitness for seniors or see if your friends want to get together and have their own private small group personal training sessions. As our grandmothers told us, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

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