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Let’s play pickleball!

Photo: andreswd/gettyimages

A hybrid of tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball may be the fastest growing recreational sport in the United States.

Pickleball has a smallish court size (about the same as a badminton court), low nets and lightweight paddles. Experts say these may make the sport attractive to older people or anyone who wants to be active without the exertion level required for tennis or racquetball.

It’s also a lot of fun and a good way to meet people. But as with any sport, you need to know your fitness level and limitations before giving pickleball a try.

Here are some tips for staying safe:
Warm up and stretch: Noe Sariban, a doctor of physical therapy in sports and orthopedics and a certified pickleball teaching pro, recommends a warmup routine to raise your body’s temperature for athletic activity. Suggestions: jogging, high knee lifts, side steps, forward and backward arm circles (small to big), and side-to-side arm swings. Stretching is a good idea, too.
Check your footwear: Proper footwear can help reduce your risk of falls, Sariban said. Playing outdoors? Find a shoe made for hardcourt tennis, and avoid wearing sneakers or running shoes. For an indoor court, choose shoes you might wear to play basketball or volleyball. If you play regularly, numerous manufacturers now offer shoes specifically made for pickleball.
Wear eye protection: Pickleballs are made of hard plastic and may travel at high speeds. USA Pickleball recommends wearing proper eye protection.
Be careful when backpedaling: As their experience level grows, many players learn to “dink” – that is, to come to the net to exchange finesse drop shots into the non-volley zone of the court known as the “kitchen.” One countermeasure to dinking is a lob shot, intended to loft the ball over an opponent’s head. If a lob shot is headed your way, avoid blindly backpedaling, as this can quickly trigger a loss of balance. Instead, turn to either to sidestep or run in the direction of the ball’s flight.
Communicate: Take time before a game to decide which player will cover the middle, retrieve lobs, etc. And call the ball if you’re running for it, so your teammate knows what direction you’re heading and you two can avoid colliding.
Hydrate and stay nourished: Avoid dehydration by drinking water and replenishing electrolytes with proper snacks during play.

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