Pickleball Knee Injuries: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Cropped shot of legs of African sportsman with knee injury standing outdoors, clasping his knee depicted in red selective color conceptual of pulled muscle, rupture, strain, sprain or tendon injury

Pickleball is a fun social sport that provides hours of engaging physical activity. However, when knee pain strikes, your favorite activity becomes less of a joy and instead can cause severe discomfort. 

It’s essential to identify the cause of your knee pain from the moment it arises, as sports injuries can become complicated if you don’t rest and prevent further injury from occurring. In this article, we’ll cover the various types of pickleball injuries that can occur and help you understand the best ways to know the symptoms, causes, and treatments for any knee injuries that happen from playing pickleball. 

Understanding Pickleball Knee Injuries

Chasing the ball, returning shots, and jumping to get in the right spot can result in knee strain, which is particularly prevalent in pickleball due to the constant movement required when playing the game. 

Pickleball is a common sporting activity for older adults, who are more likely to suffer from the likes of osteoarthritis. This condition occurs when the meniscus ligaments on your knees are weaker and can’t withstand stress from lunging forward and jumping around the tennis court. As a result, a pickleball injury occurs from stress to the knees, causing pain.

Common Causes of Pickleball Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are most common knee injuries from pickleball are linked to improper form, sudden movements, and repetitive strain. It’s crucial to practice form and find comfortable positions that are accurate while supporting your range of motion to prevent injuries from arising.

On the other hand, if you notice pain in your knee, it’s best to rest to prevent further muscle strains that could lead to a more serious injury. 

Recognizing Symptoms

There are telltale signs and symptoms of a knee injury to look out for when playing that can help prevent knee injuries that become more serious. Keep an eye on how your range of motion performs, with significant swelling, pain, and instability being reliable indicators of minor injuries. 

Types of Pickleball Knee Injuries

basketball-player-applying-bandage-knee

There are a few common causes of pickleball injury, such as:

  • Meniscus injury: Knees have cartilage surrounding them that cushion and absorb shock, known as meniscus. When partaking in physical exercises, it’s possible to twist your knee, which can tear your meniscus. 
  • Knee sprains: If you reach to return a shot and you twist your knee past its flexibility limit, you can overstretch your ligaments. Sprains result in swelling and pain in the injured area, making it hard to place weight on the knee and pursue daily activities. 
  • Patellar tendonitis: One of the most common overuse injuries, patellar tendonitis results from frequently putting stress on your patellar tendon. This sports injury feels dull and can result in stiffness, making motion exercises challenging. 

Prevention Strategies

Preventing knee injuries from pickleball is essential to maintaining a good physique and enjoying the game as much as possible. Measures such as proper warm-ups and protective gear are the most effective and can be applied to playing other racket sports. 

Warm up routines can include a slow jog to increase blood flow before playing a game, along with stretches that prevent injury from sudden movement and stiff joints. Wearing practical, comfortable running shoes and knee supports can make exercise more comfortable.

Injury Management and First Aid

While pickleball is a relatively low-intensity sport, the possibility of injuring yourself is still apparent. Hence, managing your injuries when they occur is essential to prevent further damage and muscle strain. 

If you’re new to playing pickleball, there’s a chance you’ll ache a bit after the first few goes. Cooling down is a great way to prevent stiffness and soreness, but there could be other issues if you notice more pain. For minor, short-term injuries, using the RICE technique (rest, ice pack, compression, and elevation) is an excellent way to overcome the pain that arises. 

Wearing a knee brace or elastic bandage can be beneficial when swelling occurs, helping alleviate some pressure on your joints. 

Seeking Professional Help

Sports Physical Therapy

If pain persists after resting, it’s time to seek professional help to ensure you receive a proper diagnosis and find out if there are any underlying issues, such as knee arthritis. When dealing with a professional, they’ll lay out different treatments and ways to overcome serious injuries, including knee surgery or physical therapy. 

Diagnostic Procedures and Imaging

Within your consultation, you’ll undergo a physical examination to determine the exact cause of your pain. These procedures can include X-rays and MRI scans, providing an accurate view of your knee’s injury and ensuring no obvious deformity is apparent.

Once the extent of your injury is identified, you’ll be sent down the right path to treat the injury effectively.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

While the RICE method is one reliable non-surgical injury treatment for pickleball injuries, other techniques work too. Physical therapy can be great for slowly introducing exercise back into your routine while recovering from an injury, with the help of a physical therapist guiding you through massage therapy and low-intensity movements to regain strength and manage pain. 

Surgical Treatment Options

In severe pickleball knee injury cases, surgery may be required. With severe sports injuries, it’s essential to undergo post-operative rehabilitation, with physical therapists guiding you through physiotherapy to re-establish strength and joint function. 

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Although you may want to return to playing pickleball immediately, completing injury rehabilitation exercises to recover from your injury is essential. Rehabilitation exercises gradually rebuild your strength and mobility, ensuring you can enjoy pickleball again. Movements like side shuffles, lunges, and single leg-calf raises can offer effective results.

Injury Prevention for Future

Sad tennis player sitting in the court after lose a match - people in sport tennis game concept

Staying on top of your health and physique is essential, and dedicating the time to warming up will help to prevent future injuries. Additionally, if you’ve endured a pickleball injury, recognize your physical limitations and don’t overdo it. Start slowly and listen to your body, wearing the correct clothing and shoes for exercise to prevent harm to the knees and ankle sprains.

Conclusion

Understanding your health and listening to your body, combined with proper prevention techniques, are great ways to manage pickleball injuries and have a fulfilling playing experience. 

It’s essential to wear the right clothes, use the right equipment and warm up to minimize the risk of injuries. Additionally, practicing to establish the correct form and effective ways of playing are great prevention techniques.

Finally, if you do notice pain when playing, give yourself time to rest, and if symptoms persist, it’s best to contact a professional.

E-Mail: frankallen@YourPlacePT.com