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Pickleball, Too Easy to Play Mentality Causing Injury?

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Pickleball, a sport known for its simplicity and accessibility, is facing a surprising challenge. According to UBS analysts, the rise in popularity of pickleball could result in medical costs ranging from $250 million to $500 million in 2023.

This estimate includes potential expenses related to outpatient surgeries among seniors, possibly exacerbated by factors such as the pandemic backlog and the relaxation of mask requirements.

Dr. Joshua Dines, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, believes that the ease of playing pickleball may contribute to the injuries seen among players. Many individuals who hadn't engaged in physical activity for years found pickleball to be an easy reentry into sports, but their bodies may not have been adequately prepared for the demands of the game.

The sport's rapid growth is also a contributing factor to the increased healthcare costs. The number of pickleball players is projected to jump from 3.5 million in 2019 to an estimated 22.3 million by the end of 2023. The majority of injuries occur among players over 60 years old, as indicated by a study that used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

While pickleball is generally considered a low-impact sport, repetitive shoulder motion and side-to-side movement can aggravate existing injuries, especially in individuals who are not regularly active. Even individuals in their late 20s and early 30s are not immune to pickleball injuries, as observed by Dr. Dines.

USA Pickleball, the governing body of the sport, acknowledges the potential for injuries in any physical activity but emphasizes the numerous benefits of pickleball for a healthy and active lifestyle. They encourage players to prioritize their physical well-being and monitor their bodies consistently.

While the estimated $500 million in injuries may seem significant, it reflects the surge in popularity rather than inherent dangers specific to pickleball. Other sports, such as golf and tennis, also carry their own risks of injuries due to the nature of the activities involved.

As pickleball continues to grow in popularity, it is important for players to exercise caution, listen to their bodies, and maintain a balanced approach to the sport to minimize the risk of injuries.


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