The Unlikely Emergence: Pickleball's Impact on ER Visits

In the realm of sports-related injuries, certain activities often steal the spotlight—football tackles, basketball sprains, or soccer collisions. Yet, there's a newcomer on the scene that's quietly making its mark in emergency rooms around the world: pickleball.

 

The Rise of Pickleball's Popularity

Pickleball has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. What began as a backyard pastime has evolved into a beloved sport played by millions across the globe, from retirees seeking recreation to competitive athletes craving a new challenge.

 

A Surprising Trend

While pickleball's ascent has been celebrated, it has also brought with it an unexpected consequence: a surge in emergency room visits due to pickleball-related injuries. Despite its reputation as a low-impact activity, pickleball carries inherent risks, particularly for players who push themselves to the limit or fail to take proper precautions.

It is estimated that in 2023, there were more than 6,750 emergency department visits and 366,000 outpatient visits due to pickleball injuries, according to a Journal of Emergency Medicine study. These medical visits resulted in more than $350 million in medical costs, according to UBS analysts' research.

 

Common Injuries and Causes

So, what exactly are the injuries sending pickleball enthusiasts to the ER? While the severity may vary, some of the most common ailments include:

  • Sprains and Strains: Twisting and turning on the court can lead to sprained ankles, strained muscles, or ligament tears.
  • Impact Injuries: Collisions with other players, falls, or attempts to reach difficult shots can result in bruises, cuts, or even broken bones.
  • Overuse Injuries: Repetitive motions, such as swinging a paddle or running back and forth, can lead to tendonitis, bursitis, or stress fractures over time.

 

Prevention and Safety Measures

Despite the risks, pickleball injuries are largely preventable with proper precautions and awareness. Players can reduce their risk of injury by:

  • Warming Up: Properly warming up muscles and joints before play can help prevent strains and sprains.
  • Using Protective Gear: Wearing supportive footwear, knee pads, and wrist guards can provide added protection against impact injuries.
  • Practicing Technique: Learning proper form and technique can minimize strain on muscles and joints, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Listening to Your Body: Recognizing signs of fatigue or pain and knowing when to rest or seek medical attention is essential for injury prevention.

 

Balancing Risk and Reward

As pickleball continues to captivate players of all ages and abilities, it's essential to acknowledge and address the potential risks associated with the sport. While ER visits due to pickleball-related injuries may be on the rise, they serve as a reminder of the importance of safety, education, and injury prevention in recreational and competitive athletics.

Ultimately, the goal is not to discourage participation in pickleball but rather to promote responsible play and empower players to enjoy the sport safely. By taking proactive measures to mitigate risks and prioritize safety, pickleball enthusiasts can continue to embrace the game they love while minimizing the likelihood of injury—and ensuring that their time on the court is spent chasing points, not visits to the emergency room.