“According to UBS analysts…Americans will spend between $250 million and $500 million in costs tied to pickle [ball] injuries this year” (Bohannon 2023). Published in January of 2023, you may have seen this article floating around talking about pickleball and the injury related costs associated with the sport.
Messages like this don’t help people decrease their pain or risk of injury with pickleball - they just prevent people from moving, and thus make the problem worse.
Messages like this strongly conflict with the message that we emphasize here at Made 2 Move- that you were MADE TO MOVE. This is the same fear-mongering message that gets put out about running, CrossFit, or lifting weights.
Messages like this have the potential to cultivate beliefs that certain movements, postures, or sports are harmful, ultimately dissauading individuals from participating in physical activity altogether. Let’s be better.
Is Pickleball Going to Injure Me?
No movement will ever be inherently bad or unsafe for you. A wrong context, time, or dosage for a movement? Sure, and this is where injuries may arise. If you deadlift very rarely and then try to go move the weight your gym buddy moves on a weekly basis, your back might hollar at you the next day. If you sprained your ankle in Thursday’s practice, we might not need to put you back on the field for Saturday’s game. If your shoulder pain is exacerbated by kipping pull-ups, maybe we need to take away the speed of the movement for bit, work on strict strength, then get back to it.
The same principle applies to pickleball: if you work a sedentary job most of the day and don’t engage in any physical activity besides (a VERY competitive ) few matches of pickleball weekly, then your body may be underprepared. But underprepared doesn’t mean you weren’t built for it. It just means we have some work to do.
Here’s the key: the wrong context or time for a movement IS NOT the same as the message many people receive from the internet or other resources, which is the “thing” you’re doing (running, Crossfit, rounding your back) is damaging or dangerous for your body and to never do it again.
The Devil is in the Dosage
Pickleball is an extremely accessible (and fun) sport, so people who used to be more sedentary are now GETTING AFTER IT. That’s one of the main goals of a sport: to get more people moving in a way that is enjoyable and sustainable for them. Beyond the physical aspect of pickleball, engaging in the sport also serves as a valuable space for fostering meaningful social connections- an often looked over aspect of vitality.
Where this gets tricky? Because people often go from sitting all day at work to playing hours of evening pickleball, or maybe only playing once every 2 weeks, their bodies and tissues just aren’t used to the loads and demands of the sport (which surprisingly involves a good amount of running, impact, lateral movement, and upper body strength/power). The positive? All of these demands can be trained and improved on!
The problem isn’t pickleball, it’s:
Being overly sedentary (outside of your pickleball hours) and being physically unprepared.
Not being taught how to properly address pain and injuries (believing rest, ice, NSAIDS are the long- term solution for pain).
The overapplication of orthopedic surgery to solve pain and injuries.
How about the amount spent annually on other healthcare costs?
So pickleball injuries are apparently costing 250-500 million dollars in healthcare costs per year. How about the amount of money our country spends on heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity? Estimated annual healthcare related costs broken down the CDC are below:
Obesity: 173 billion dollars
Heart Disease and Stroke: 147 billion dollars
Physical Inactivity: $117 billion
And yes, those were all BILLION with a B. Not to keep harping on healthcare costs, but tooth decay costs more than pickleball injuries, coming in at 45 billion dollars in healthcare costs per year. Contrast that with the estimated 250-500 million (with an M) spent on pickleball related injuries.
And the irony of it all? Doing physically active things like pickleball can actually be protective against some of the costly above conditions like obesity, stroke, and heart disease (maybe not your tooth decay).
Pickleball isn’t the problem. As seen by the numbers above, the amount of money spent annually on sick care: chronic disease, metabolic syndrome, and even tooth decay, trumps the amount of money spent on sports related injuries.
Here’s what this means for you..
Now 250-500 million dollars is still a lot of money. And exercising isn’t going to cure EVERYTHING (as much as we wish it could), but the point is this: the physical and social benefits pickleball offers to your well-being far surpass any purported “harmful” risks and potential healthcare expenses associated with the sport.
How can you optimize your pickleball abilities?
For starters - if you’re new to pickleball, the #1 thing we recommend is to ramp up your playing slowly. Start with 1-2 days a week, then ramp up there as your body tolerates.
Add in a quick warm up that will have the double benefit of:
1. Priming your body to crush your opponent
2. Over time, it will strengthen your body and make you more resilient to injury
If you’re dealing with pain and injuries either related to pickleball or keeping you from playing pickleball, there are solutions that will get you back on the court.
At Made 2 Move, we are here to provide you with the freedom and tools to bring out the best pickleBALLER version of yourself. Interested in working with one of our PTs? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org today to set up an initial evaluation!