As Featured on Fox 5 DC: A Surgeon’s Tips to Prevent Pickleball Injuries

Authored by: Dr. Colin Haines

Taylor Grenda: We’re talking about everything pickleball. So in the last hour I got my hand in the game for the first time, and I certainly learned a lot. It is such a fun sport, and who would have known? I know it’s an ever growing sport, but with that also comes a lot of injuries. We’re seeing the injuries grow exponentially fast. And joining me this morning is Dr. Colin Haines, Spinal Surgeon. Thank you so much for being here this morning.

Dr. Colin Haines: Thank you for having me.

You love to play tennis, you love to play pickleball, but you know something in your job – you’re starting to see a lot of injuries from this sport, correct? 


What are some of the common injuries that you see? 

It’s an exploding sport, but people don’t take it seriously enough. You know, it is a real sport. I’ll tell you, the first time I played..I work out, I play tennis…I played pickleball for the first time and I couldn’t walk the next day because I was so sore.

Oh my goodness.

So we’re not prepping ourselves properly. Some of the common injuries we think about: shoulder, elbow (like tennis elbow), at the ankle. But also as a spine surgeon, we’re seeing a lot of back injuries in the discs, in the lumbar spine.

What are some common maneuvers that cause injuries in pickleball?

So it’s a lot of twisting. And if we over twist, we try to hit the ball too hard. That can put a lot of force to the low back, and potentially injure ourselves. Another thing I think about, as a tennis player, if the ball is on the ground I just use my racket and pick it up. But with pickleball there’s a lot of picking the ball up – so bending over and hunching down, not using proper form, that can hurt. So when you drop the ball – bend with the knees, bend with the hips, keep that core tight. 

I’m definitely a sucker for. So yeah, good to know. Any other common injuries? 

Those are really the big ones. Those are the predominant ones, but achilles tendon is a common one as well. 

Make sure you stretch before. Which brings me to my next question…

What are some stretches we can do to warm up for pickleball?

I usually subscribe to the simple five-five rule. Five minutes of warm up, and five minutes of cool down. You split the five minutes up between some gentle cardio (just walking, doing some high knees, something to get the blood pumping), but we always say about stretching which I recommend for the other half. We think about stretching your legs or hips, but we don’t think about the back as much. When talking about the back – three simple ones:

  • First is Cat-Cow – you’ll arch forward and then lean back.
  • Next is Side to Side Rotational Stretch – hold it for about 10 seconds each side, and do a couple of those. 
  • And then the last one for the upper back – take your racket, pull it out and away from you. You’ll feel that stretch and burn.

Those are all things that keep the spine limber and feel better. 

Okay, yeah, kind of like opens it up a little bit. Get ready to go. Alright, you want to play some ball? 

Let’s do it.

Let’s see what your skills are like. I’ve learned in a matter of 30 minutes so we’ll see where I’m at.

I always think it makes sense to start slow. So playing easy in the kitchen just kind of dinking it over.

I’ve learned what the kitchen is.

So once were confident doing that, that’s where you can step back and actually do a little bit more hitting. 

So start as like a warm up, start right there. 

Start with a warm up. See, you’re a pro already!

What are some warm down moves we can do after playing pickleball?

So I do the same format as my warm up. I recommend starting with stretching, and then just doing some gentle walking off. So the same stretches you do in the beginning. Make sure you do them at the end as well. 

My husband makes fun of me because I like to call it, after my years and years of swimming, I like to call the cool down the warm down. Regardless, you have to cool down a little bit.

You got to do it. You got to do it. It’s very easy to just take some water and walk off. But it’s really good for the muscles to stretch after. 

So there you have it. You have the warm up for five minutes, then cool down for five minutes and enjoy it while you can, right? Get out and enjoy it!

It’s a great sport, and fun exercise.

Thank you so much Colin.

Thank you.

There you have it, learn so quickly. Certainly need to stretch, and to help prevent injury make sure you cool down as well. 

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