Analyst: Pickleball injuries projected to total nearly $400 million this year

Like so many people, Charlotte resident Jacob Partridge got hooked on pickleball quickly.

“I was just out west visiting a friend and he invited me to play pickleball and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I never really played,” he said.

That visit out west ended up turning into a fun hobby for him. He started playing pickleball up to three times a week with his friends.

Then he went up for a point and came down with an injury.

“I jumped up and when I came down, I landed funny on my knee and I could feel that kind of gave out a little bit, and so I tore my meniscus and had to get surgery,” he said.

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He’s not alone. Financial analysts with global firm UBS are projecting $377 million of medical costs related to pickleball this year. UBS is projecting an estimated 67,000 emergency department visits, 366,000 outpatient visits, and 4,700 hospitalizations, all from pickleball.

North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop was one of those injuries, he tore his Achilles tendon playing earlier this year and is still recovering.

“It is an indicator of how good or bad of shape I am in,” Rep. Bishop said.

OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Patrick Connor says he sees several patients due to pickleball injuries each week.

“Clearly a lot of people play pickleball that aren’t high-level athletes,” Dr. Connor said. “Sometimes they have a hard time saying good shot, meaning they dive for balls or they run down balls maybe they shouldn’t.”

Connor says lower extremity injuries are the most common like hurt ankles, calf or hamstring sprains, or Achilles tendon tears. He recommends thoroughly stretching before playing and not attempting to make every play.

“You don’t have to win every point,” he said. “There are a lot of points in pickleball and I do think saying good shot every now and then is probably wise.”

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It will be a few weeks before Partridge is able to return to the court. But he credits OrthoCarolina for his treatment and says he is excited to get back out there and play again.

“This maybe slowed me down a bit,” he said.

Common pickleball injuries and prevention tips from OrthoCarolina:

  • Lower extremity soft tissue injuries: These include calf, hamstring and quad strains, hip strains and other muscle-tendon injuries. Prevention: Stretching and warming up properly are essential, as well as being cognizant of any sore areas after playing.

  • Foot, ankle and knee injuries: These include ankle sprains and fractures and Achilles tendon injuries, which often occur when the ankle twists during quick movements, changes or jumps. Prevention: Ensure your shoes are securely tied and provide proper support. Staying within your athletic abilities and avoiding excessive force on the Achilles tendon can help prevent and potential ruptures.

  • Shoulder and elbow injuries: These include rotator cuff injuries and elbow tendinitis, which often occur because of repetitive swinging. Prevention: Incorporate gentle rotator cuff strengthening exercises while using over-the-counter soft braces on the elbow to minimize the force on the tendons and provide added protection.

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