When we think of popular sports, the word “pickleball” doesn’t often come to mind. Thanks to its explosive growth in popularity in recent years, that may soon change. More than just a funny name, pickleball has joined the ranks as a rising star in the sports world with an estimated 2.8 million players worldwide, and has earned the reputation of being the fastest growing sport in the United States. It‘s fun, easy to learn, provides a great aerobic workout, and is even popular among physicians like Dr. Christina Kabbash, Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon and Foot & Ankle Specialist at Physicians Regional Medical Group. “Pickleball is a great sport, especially for players new to racket sports or with accumulated wear and tear, says, Dr. Kabbash. “The smaller court size places less stress on the knees, hips, and ankles, and hitting a lighter ball has less impact on the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.”
Pickleball is a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, and is played on an indoor or outdoor court measuring 20×44 feet, with the net hung at 36 inches on the ends. It can be played with either two or four players using paddles and a plastic ball with holes. While generally considered a safe sport, pickleball can involve common injuries that include Achilles tendinitis, calf strain or tennis leg, plantar fasciitis, and lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow. Acute or traumatic injuries tend to be ankle sprains and wrist fractures. An elite athlete herself, Dr. Kabbash is all too familiar with how sports injuries can occur, especially for newcomers or those returning to the activity after an extended period of time off. “With any sport, there are risks involved and players should ease into the sport,” says Dr. Kabbash. She offers the following tips to help players safely enjoy the sport at any age:
1) Play Within Your Limits. It is easy to let the competitive juices start flowing and lunge for shots you have no business lunging for. Recognize your capabilities and allow for experience, strength, and flexibility to develop.
2) Do balance and core exercises. Pickleball involves extensive side to side and backward motions requiring neuromuscular training. This can be honed with balance and core exercises decreasing the risk of trips and falls, especially as we get older.
3) Wear court shoes. Running shoes are engineered for front to back, rolling heel to toe motion, heel cushioning, and good traction which is not conducive to the sport. Court shoes are engineered for side to side, lateral motion, with smoother soles less likely to “catch an edge” when side shuffling and sliding for a shot.
4) Warm up prior to playing. Warming up involves dynamic exercises to get the blood flowing to the muscles and tendons, and gets the joints moving smoothly. Dynamic warm ups can consist of brisk walking or biking to the pickleball court, and/or five to ten minutes of knee lifts, arm circles, lunges, touching the toes and walking the hands out into plank position and then back.
5) Do static stretching exercises. These can be performed AFTER a dynamic warm up to avoid overstretching injury to “cold” muscles and tendons.
6) Allow for proper resting. Muscles and tendons in the body need to rebuild and strengthen after exercise. Stress and overuse injuries occur when you play daily and do not allow for adequate time to rebuild.
Dr. Kabbash is Board Certified in Orthopaedic Surgery, and Fellowship Trained in Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle trauma and reconstruction. Her services include treatment for hammer toe and bunion reconstruction,
sprains or fractures of every foot and ankle joint, tendon ruptures and injuries including Achilles tendon, and foot and ankle post-traumatic arthritis, including total ankle replacements.
Dr. Kabbash’s office is located at Physicians Regional – Pine Ridge, 6101 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples, FL 34119. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call (239) 348-4221 or visit PhysiciansRegionalMedicalGroup.com