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Pickleball injuries are on the upswing: Who’s most at risk?

Photo: Thomas Barwick/gettyimages

Pickleball players, be careful: Fractures related to the popular sport increased 90-fold during a recent 20-year period, and older adults may be most susceptible.

Researchers from the University of Central Florida College of Medicine examined 2002-2022 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. They found that:

  • Pickleball-associated fractures doubled from 2020 onward.
  • The most common fractures involved the upper extremities of women 65 and older after they fell.
  • Men were 2.3 times more likely than women to be admitted to the hospital for a fracture.

“Despite its reputation as a low-impact sport, pickleball can pose serious risk for players especially if they have weaker bones from osteoporosis,” said Kurt P. Spindler, MD, FAAOS, orthopaedic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Florida. “It’s important to understand your risk profile of injury and to speak with your physician to see how you can lower your risk.

“For example, if you know you’re at risk for weakened bones, it’s important to build your bone mass as you age with appropriate nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D and choosing weightbearing activities.”

Noe Sariban, a doctor of physical therapy in sports and orthopedics and a certified pickleball teaching pro, and Tony Malia, a former sports instructor who taught pickleball at the Warrenville (IL) Park District, offer safety tips:

  • Warm up and stretch before playing to prepare your body and improve your range of motion
  • Choose proper footwear to help reduce your risk of falls
  • Don’t backpedal if a ball is lobbed over your head; instead, turn to either sidestep or run in the direction of the ball
  • Shout “Ball!” and stop play if another ball heads onto your court

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