Kellie K. Middleton, MD

Recover from Your Pickle Ball Injury with Physical Therapy

Mar 11, 2024
Recover from Your Pickle Ball Injury with Physical Therapy
You’re doing a great job staying physically active, thanks to pickleball. You love your new sport because it’s fun and makes you feel like a real athlete. But just like a pro athlete, you now have an injury. You need physical therapy.

Pickleball has exploded in popularity, growing by 158.6% annually over the last three years, with 36.5 million players in the United States. Even though the largest age group participating in this new sport lies between 18 and 34 years, it’s also exploded in the older crowd.

Unfortunately, as pickleball grows in popularity among those over 50, so do the injuries. Overall, pickleball injuries increased from under 9,000 in 2020 to 17,000 in 2022. Approximately three-quarters of those were in players aged 55-75.

About 60,000 injuries per year are severe enough to send players to the emergency room. Whether your injury is mild or severe, if you don’t treat it right, you’re at risk for complications, including re-injury and permanent dysfunction.

Kellie K. Middleton, MD, an orthopedic expert in Lawrenceville, Georgia, recommends physical therapy (PT) for any sports injury. A former professional athlete, she knows how important it is to build strength and flexibility with PT as part of your recovery.

Whether you consider yourself an athlete or just play pickleball for socializing and fun, if you’re injured, you need PT. Here’s why.

Overuse can lead to arthritis

One of the most common injuries in any sport is an overuse injury. When you make the same movements over and over — whether it’s swinging a paddle or crouching to get the shot — the joint eventually begins to break down due to wear-and-tear.

You may not notice, at first, that you’re injuring your joint. Overuse injuries develop gradually. The most common areas to develop one are:

  • Knees
  • Elbows
  • Shoulders


Pickleball elbow, for instance, is the same overuse injury as tennis elbow, which affects the tendons on the inner part of the joint. Arthritis occurs when repetitive movements wear down the cartilage that protects your joint. 

Because there’s no cure for arthritis, your best bet is to prevent it in the first place. PT can help you change your form so that it’s less likely to create an injury. You also build up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your elbow to reduce the chance of reinjury.

Sprains and strains are common

Any fast-moving sport that requires short stops, like pickleball, risks ankle and knee sprains. The most common acute injuries in pickleball are:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Rotator cuff (i.e., shoulder) tendonitis

If you’re in the over 50-crowd, you may be especially prone to acute injuries such as sprains or strains. Take seriously the recommendation to consult with your doctor before starting a new sport, especially if you’ve been sedentary: You may have conditions that make you more susceptible to injury.

Fractures are a possibility

While you may think of a fracture as a recognizably broken bone, hairline (i.e., stress) fractures are invisible. Especially if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, your bones may develop hairline fractures due to the stresses of play. 

Even young players, though, can develop stress fractures due to the demands of play. Common areas for hairline fractures include the toes and lower legs.

Use PT to prevent injury, too

If you’re on the court every week, you’re an athlete, whether you think of yourself as one or not. Give your body the support and care it needs by starting PT even before an injury.

When you consult a physical therapist, they can give you specific warm-up and cool-down exercises that decrease your risk for overuse or acute injury. They can also examine how you move and recommend exercises that help you run or swing more efficiently, with less risk for injury.

Also, be sure to learn your new sport from someone with experience and proper technique. You may consider a coach to be sure you’re not developing bad habits that could shorten your playing career and lead to unwanted consequences, such as arthritis.

Have you noticed new aches and pains since starting pickleball or suffered an acute injury like a sprain or strain? Get the help you need with a diagnosis, treatment, and recovery PT by contacting our knowledgeable team by phone or the online form.