No one likes to think about injuries, especially not when they are connected to their favorite sport—pickleball. I always seem to take it personally when I meet someone who gave pickleball a try for the first time at my urging and fell, bruising their elbows, breaking wrists, or generally suffering from pain, wherever it might reside.
One of my cardinal rules has always been “Never run backward!” Now, my watchwords are slightly different: “Play safely!” That covers many more sins than just running backward.
Is this something you need to be concerned with? I mean, you’ve been playing for years, and nothing bad has happened yet, right?
Would you go out on the court with a paddle that was close to breaking? Or with shoes that were coming apart? Wouldn’t you take time to mend that paddle or put some duct tape on your tennies? (What you’d really do is buy a new paddle and shoes, but using this analogy, you can’t buy a new body, so you have to take care of the one you have.)
When you’re sick, your body is telling you to rest. If you play pickleball then, you may make your illness worse. When you’re injured, the pain is sending a message that something needs to heal before you injure it further. Heed these warnings.
Besides listening to your body, you can take steps to prevent injury from occurring in the first place.
Don’t Run Backward. It’s the easiest way to tumble. Instead, turn sideways, shuffle, and hit the ball—or—turn around, run forward, and turn again to hit the ball.
Maintain Balance. When reaching for a shot, whether to one side or overhead, take care not to reach so far your center of gravity isn’t centered anymore. Unless you’re in a tournament and the match point depends upon your getting the shot, don’t attempt dangerous maneuvers. (Let your partner know that you would rather be safe than sorry.)
Make Sure the Court Surface Is Safe. Don’t play on a wet surface or when litter might cause someone to slip. Also remove any obstacles that might cause you to trip.
Wear Good Shoes. The soles should have a good grip and should fit you properly. Over time, shoe uppers tend to break down, providing less support, and the soles wear away. When this happens, get a new pair.
Maintain Fitness in General. Doing core exercises, strength training, yoga, Pilates, and cardio workouts all help to make you more fit for pickleball.
Warm Up Before You Play a Game. That could mean you go out on the court and hit a few balls and call it done. A better warm-up would be to walk, stretch, and then do that pre-game play to make sure all the muscles you’ll use while playing pickleball—and that’s mostly all of them—aren’t tight and prone to injury.
Learn to Fall Properly. That’s not as silly as it sounds. Nearly everyone falls eventually. Learn to do it well, and you may come away with only a bruise or two (and a few laughs from your friends). Texas Woman’s University created a great video that shows how to fall safely: http://www.twu.edu/rm/FallingSafely.asp.
Note: Many people who fall don’t take time enough after a fall to properly assess if they’ve been injured. Those who rush back onto the court, saying, “I’m fine, I’m fine,” may well be, but it’s better to take a few minutes to make sure before going back out and injuring yourself further.
Take these precautions for safety's sake, and then go out and have fun!