PT Professor Offers Top 5 Tips for Preventing Pickleball Injuries

Elizabeth Chaffin PT, DPT

Thursday, November 9th, 2023

Pickleball – a low-impact racquet game that is a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton – is the fastest growing sport in the nation, according to USA Pickleball, the national governing body for the sport in the United States. Pickleball is so popular that a recent episode of The Golden Bachelor, a dating reality TV series featuring senior adults, presented a tournament where one player was injured.

The sport, with popularity stretching from children to older adults, is known for being slower-paced with less ground to cover. Recently physical therapy students and faculty members at PCOM Georgia, an osteopathic medical school in Suwanee, offered free pickleball injury prevention screenings to Metro Atlanta community members. The screenings aimed to help pickleball players stop injuries before they occurred.

Elizabeth Chaffin PT, DPT, an assistant professor and the Director of Clinical Education in the Department of Physical Therapy at PCOM Georgia, offered her top five tips on preventing injuries and staying on the court longer.

They include:

  • Make sure you warm up before playing pickleball.

Don’t go from the car directly to the court. A total body warm-up of the muscles and joints can prevent injury.

  • Start slow.

Gradually build up the amount of time you spend on the court. Overdoing it is one of the quickest ways to injury.

  • Use the correct equipment.

A pickleball shoe that provides lateral stability and a properly fitted racquet can decrease potential injuries.

  • Take a lesson, especially if just starting to play.

The proper technique can significantly decrease the chance of injury.

  • Get a screening.

Before getting on the court, new players who haven’t been physically active recently or pickleball players who have developed chronic injuries or conditions should consider a physical therapy and/or a pickleball injury prevention screening to assess strength, range of motion, flexibility, balance and functional mobility to identify areas to improve.

Dr. Chaffin has worked in the field of rehabilitation for over 25 years as a physical therapist and athletic trainer. Her focus has been in the fields of sports medicine and orthopedic rehabilitation working with a range of athletes from weekend warriors to college and professional players.

She has served as the manager of medical services for the United States Tennis Association, where she oversaw medical care for more than 600 international athletes and the medical services at over 100 elite junior and professional tennis events per year.

Pickleball, an all-season sport that can be played inside or outside, was created in the summer of 1965 by three fathers on an old badminton court to provide a game for their teenagers to enjoy. It was named as a reference to the “thrown-together, leftover, non-starters in the ‘pickle boat’ of crew races,” according to its governing body.