Pickleball Falls


According to the Volley Llama, pickleball injuries are becoming more and more common as the game continues to grow in popularity. Pickleball has exploded because of how easy and fun it is…especially with older, retired folks like myself looking to stay active.

However, anyone who has played pickleball any length of time has either experienced falling on the court, or suffered joint injuries or know someone who has. It can happen so fast. Stepping on one’s shoe string, backing up improperly to retrieve a ball or other situations. The most common pickleball injuries are ankle strain, Achilles tendon strain, heel strain, knee strain and hamstring strain.

Fortunately, my falls have not resulted in serious injury but I know of cracked heads, broken elbows or wrists, sprained joints as well as other pickleball injuries. I, for one, will undergo hip replacement surgery this month resulting from too much playing on hard courts. Recovery can be challenging.

Jane Brody identifies in her New York Times article several factors related to falling and steps that should be taken to minimize the risk of falling.

For the elderly, most causes of death are complicated by a fall. The statistics are staggering.

  • Improper shoes
  • Every 19 minutes an older person dies from a fall;
  • One fall in five results in serious injury and most difficult to recover;
  • Falls can result in irreversible impact to one’ health, social interaction and physiological well-being;
  • More than a quarter of people aged 65 and older fall each year. Falling once doubles chances of falling again according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • Most age-related falls are preventable

For pickleball players, many factors can contribute to falling including:

  • Medical and orthopedic problems and medications to treat them;
  • Physical change that impair balance;
  • Lack of core strength and warm up exercises go hand in hand;
  • Lack of sufficient warm up---not stretching every day;
  • Gait and muscle strength;
  • Sensory decline in vision; and
  • Hearing and awareness of body positions.

Brody offers several suggestions for minimizing dangerous falling. They include:

  • Regular exercise to maintain leg strength, balance, endurance and coordination;
  • Tai Chi as a low impact way to improve balance;
  • Practice standing on one foot when you brush your teeth, wash dishes or prep a recipe;
  • Read Carol Clements’s book: Better Balance for Life;
  • Have eyes checked annually; and
  • Regular hearing checkups.

Dr. Kernisan, a geriatrician from the Bay Area, identifies several medications that can lead to possible fall risks. They include the following:

  • Psychoactive drugs
  • Sleep medications like Ambien and Lunesta
  • Prozac, Zoloft and Elavil
  • Flomax

For those of us committed to the game of pickleball, a couple final observations.

Most of us playing pickleball are elderly. We are not 40-years-old and we must be aware of the aging process and our subsequent limitations. Furthermore, it is important to take an honest assessment of our footwear. According to the Volley Llama article, “the most important piece of equipment is not the paddle, but in fact Your Shoes”. Court shoes are ideal. Running shoes are the worst type of shoes for pickleball. They have a tendency to grab and stick to the court at the worst time.

Obviously, shoes should fit well, be comfortable and supportive. Use footwear appropriate for the weather and surface conditions.

Finally, while falling, many of us put out our hand to break our fall and end up breaking our wrists or other resulting injuries. Again, trips and falls are the most common cause of serious injury for pickleball players over 60. In most cases, this is caused by a combination of physical exhaustion, poor footwork, inappropriate footwear, or retrieving balls beyond our capacity.

Enjoy the game and be careful

Rene Moquin

Venture Out