Recent reports from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association note that pickleball is among the fastest growing sports in the United States with nearly nine million people playing pickleball in America.
The sport has become so popular that is is now the official sport of the State of Washington.
With that popularity also comes the likelihood of injuries associated with the sport.
Dr. Stephen Hunt is a board-certified sports medicine surgeon at Tri-County Orthopedics which has one of their four locations literally around the corner from us here at WDHA.
“Every sport has its risks, and pickleball is no exception. Our entire expert team at Tri-County Orthopedics is here to help deliver the treatment and rehabilitation needed for pickleball players of all levels,” according to Dr. Hunt.
He joined Jim Monaghan on WDHA’s Jersey Magazine to talk about the rise in the sport, associated injuries, and some tips on how to avoid pickleball injuries.
JIM MONAGHAN – The name may be funny, but the injuries associated with it are anything but. We’re talking about pickleball, which is one of the, if not the fastest growing sports here in the country. And this morning on Jersey Magazine, we welcome Dr.Stephen Hunt from Tri-County Orthopedics. Good morning, Dr. Hunt. Welcome.
DR. STEPHEN HUNT – Good morning, Jim. Thanks for having me.
JM – What do you think accounts for the popularity of pickleball?
SH – So it’s interesting because we’ve really seeing an explosion over the past four years. I mean, it’s an old sport created in Seattle about 40 years ago plus, but I think it’s the nature that it’s not a lot of court coverage. The racket and balls are relatively light, so it doesn’t require a lot of necessary movements, and it attracts a lot of people socially to get out. And you can play in small court settings. I mean, during COVID in particular, people are setting these things up on street corners and driveways.
JM – It has its roots in table tennis, if you will, and actual tennis and even badminton. And it’s crazy, the popularity of it. In fact, just last year, it was named the state sport for the state of Washington. What are some of the injuries that you’re seeing associated with the sport of pickleball, Dr. Hunt?
SH – Yeah, so it’s interesting. So we see a variety of patient age groups with this. There’s teenagers who are playing up to octogenarians out there. What we tend to see tend to be a lot of the soft tissue tendon problems, Achilles injuries, rotator cuff injuries. And then we see actually this morning I had someone who is 59 tore their ACL playing pickleball. And so we see a sort of variety there. Of course, you’ll get the stumbles and occasional broken bones from a fall onto a wrist, but a lot of it’s soft tissue tendon problems.
JM – How much of the injuries are related to the stop-and-start of the sport itself?
SH – Well, that is a huge part of the lower extremity injuries. So Achilles and ligament injuries about the knee because it’s a constant twisting motion. Stop, starting and avoiding getting in the kitchen, if you will.
JM – We’re talking with Dr. Stephen Hunt this morning from Tri-County Orthopedics here on the Jersey Magazine at 105.5 WDHA and the subject pickleball and some of the associated injuries. What are some precautions that these “weekend warriors” can take, Dr.Hunt?
SH – Well, so the popularity of this sport for both activity styles and for social reasons has made a lot of people decide they’re going to pickup a pickleball racket for the first time they’ve done anything athletically in a long time. So certainly making sure you’re in shape, both your heart as well as your musculoskeletal system is important. And we at Tri-County definitely recommend a good warmup program before you go out there and play.
JM – What kind of warm up would you suggest?
SH – So something that gets your heart rate up a little bit and then a good muscle stretching program is really important because this is on all athletic levels, whether you’re a club level athlete in the soccer program up to this pickleball sport here is you want to get your brain and muscles connected. So by doing a quick sort of either bike ride or a little jogging, and then a good stretching program is very helpful to get the body ready to play.
JM – I don’t think enough people, no matter whether they’re playing pickleball and they’re in their seventies or eighties or even younger athletes – I’m the pitching coach at a high school in Union County – and Dr .Hunt, it’s everything I can do to tell kids at that age 14, 15, 16, 17, don’t throw to warm up, warm up to throw. Because the first thing you do when you go to a baseball field is what? Grab a ball, get your arm loose, and that might be the absolute worst thing that you can do.
SH – No, that’s absolutely the case. And when I was coaching my kids in youth sports, we spent the first part of the warm up. Part of it is just getting your brain in a mindset to go play and connect with your body. So it seems simple to just walk up to a court and go play. But that’s when we tend to see a lot of people have injuries.
JM – And again, the name sounds funny, but the injuries associated with it and anybody who’s been a weekend warrior who goes out and feels good on a Saturday, I mean, we’ve had nice, warm weather lately, and you feel you can get loose pretty quickly. And you wake up on Monday morning and there are parts of your body that hurt that you didn’t even know you had.
SH – No, that’s definitely the case, and I think Forbes magazine just highlighted the fact that a UBS study came out and said that this is a 400 million dollar cost to health care from pickleball injuries. So it’s a big popular sport,but certainly, unfortunately, carries some risk. Now, you mentioned lower extremities. What about the upper body? I would think the shoulders and elbows are really subject to a lot of stress playing the sport.
SH – Yeah. So definitely we see the classic sort of tennis elbow problem. So anytime you have a repetitive gripping sport, we’ll see lateral epicondylitis, which is also known as tennis elbow. And then for all of us, as we age, our rotator cuff tendon tends to deteriorate. So you add in throwing a racket and overhead and reaching, there’s definitely risk for developing rotator cuff injuries as well.
JM – Funny, you mentioned the rotator cuff .One of your associates, Dr.Mark McBride, saw me for my rotator a number of years ago. In fact, I think between my shoulder and my knees, I may have helped put one of Dr. McBride’s kids through college.
SH – It’s possible. Mark’s been around for a long time, and he has a large family, so I’m sure he’s very thankful on that front.D
JM – Dr. Stephen Hunt, my guest this morning from Tri-County Orthopedics on the Jersey Magazine at 105.5 WDHA. We’re talking pickleball and some other sports-related injuries as well. What do you think is more stressful on the body, pickleball or tennis? They have some similar characteristics, but which one do you think is more stressful on the body?
SH – Yeah, so I think the benefit of pickleball and why a lot of people find it popular is there’s less court coverage. And I think also the racket swing is a little bit shorter and more compact. The ball is a little bit of a lighter ball. In that sense, the problem with pickle versus tennis is there’s a lot more quick start-stop in pickleball and twisting maneuvers. So that’s where you do put a little more strain on again, the Achilles tendon or the ACL or the meniscus in the knee. So I think side-to-side comparison, I think pickleball definitely not as much heavy endurance related. It’s much more of those short start-stop points.
JM – And where would you rank golf? Because I know a lot of DHA listeners, middle-aged and above, are playing golf on the weekends. Where would that rank in with this?
SH – Yeah, so I think golf, you don’t tend to see as much of the traumatic ligament injuries and traumatic tendon injuries. We tend to see the more chronic issues with the rotator cuff or shoulder impingement. We do see golfer’s elbow, which is sort of on the inside part of the elbow as opposed to tennis elbow, and less likely to get sort of some of the acute trauma. It’s usually golf we tend to see more of, unless you hit a really fat shot, maybe hit a tree root, then you can get some acute wrist injuries. But most times it’s sort of most of us out there with a chronic bad form swing that are developing some bad habits that lead to trouble.
JM – Tri-County Orthopedics has locations in Cedar Knolls, which is literally around the corner from the radio station Jefferson Bedminster or Bridgewater .So for the most part, if you’re within the sound of my voice, you’re within the sound of one of their locations. Dr.Hunt, for DHA listeners who want to learn more about Tri-County Orthopedics, where can they go?
SH – So we have a web page on our website that really talks about the pickleball injuries that we treat, but also has a warm up program so you can download that program and incorporate that into your warm up routine. And what we found is there’s been very good feedback about some of our patients who have been injured who have started to incorporate that into their warm up routine so they can get back on the pickle court.
JM – And the website is tricountyortho.com.
SH – Correct.
JM – Dr. Hunt, a board-certified sports medicine surgeon at Tri-County Orthopedics, thanks for joining us this morning here on the Jersey Magazine. And thanks for trying to keep us healthy.
SH – Appreciate that, Jim.
Tri-County Orthopedics has locations in Cedar Knolls, Bedminster, Bridgewater, and Jefferson. Learn more about them on their website – www.tri-countyortho.com/