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Pick Up a Pack of Pickleball Paddles for your Heart Health (3 min read)

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Say this title’s tongue twister 10 times. This title is not the only thing getting twisted. As Pickleball popularity grows, so do the reported injuries. The sport has popularized the injury of “pickleball elbow” – another name for “tennis elbow” or lateral epicondylitis. But, does heart health outweigh the risks?

Pickleball 101

Pickleball is a fast growing sport that is a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong; it is played with a ball and special paddles, where the ball is hit back and forth over the net at an opponent. It is similar to tennis, but is considered less strenuous than tennis. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Single Sport Report on Pickleball, pickleball had grown to 4.8 million people in 2021, and steadily continues to grow in popularity.

What Are the Benefits?

Pickleball is fun and also great for your health! It is an excellent cardiovascular activity that gets you moving and competing. It has become a popular sport for older individuals, but we are seeing that all ages enjoy playing.

Pickleball and Heart Health 

Pickleball can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by increasing cardiovascular health. When you play regularly, you increase your heart rate, flexibility and muscle mass, and your heart gets stronger.

Pickleball also helps reduce stress, which is a benefit for heart health as well. Exercise releases endorphins, and makes you happier, which decreases stress. When the body is healthier and stronger, the risk of having a heart attack lessens.

Are there Risks with Playing Pickleball?

Clinics are reporting a growing number of pickleball injuries as the sport gains popularity. Injuries like sprained ankles, pulled muscles, broken wrists, etc. have been reported. Providers aren’t seeing severe injuries, but many of them could have been prevented.

Doctor Rajan Jhanjee at Stellis Health says, “Pickleball is less strenuous than tennis, but needs to be respected as the active sport that it is. Pickleball players need to warm up and stretch before playing in order to prevent injuries.”

“As an orthopedic surgeon, I treat patients with ailments/disorders of the feet, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand.”
Rajan Jhanjee, MD, Orthopedic Specialist

Developing a routine of stretching as you age is really important. It increases mobility and aids in injury prevention. Stellis Health sponsors Senior Stretching at the Buffalo Community Center. The Buffalo Community Center offers many clubs and activities that community members can enjoy. Read more and see fitness class details: https://www.ci.buffalo.mn.us/358/Activities-Clubs-Groups

Proper Equipment & Proper Mechanics

It is recommended to have proper equipment when playing pickleball. Shoes that support quick lateral movements are ideal. There are pickleball-specific shoes, but they are not necessary; any shoe that supports the ankles will work.

Using proper mechanics before, and during play is important. This includes warming up and stretching. It also involves having body awareness; recognizing and accepting your limitations. Make sure when you are learning pickleball that you ease into it. Know your body and don’t push it too hard. Running backwards can be dangerous as you age as well. It is harder to keep your balance as you age, is one of the main causes of falling, and may cause injury to a wrist, ankle or hip.

Most pickleball injuries are not serious, and injured patients can rehab relatively quickly. They may need some physical therapy, but should be back on the pickleball court in no time. Players need to be aware that injuries are possible, but the health benefits, especially the cardiovascular benefits, far outweigh the possibility of injury. Get out there and try some pickleball today!

Fun Facts

  • Pickleball was invented in 1965 by three fathers from Bainbridge Island, Washington to entertain their kids. Their names were Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.
  • Despite its name, pickleball has nothing to do with actual pickles. Pickleball is named after Joel Pritchard’s cocker spaniel, Pickles, who loved chasing the ball while his owners played.
  • The first permanent pickleball court was built in 1967.
  • Due to its continued popularity, pickleball is now being taught in physical education classes in many schools.
  • Like tennis, pickleball can be played with singles or doubles. There are also adaptive rules for teams to play standing, or in wheelchairs.
  • Pickleball is a popular sport across genders. 53% of players are male and 47% are female


Where to Play Locally

Most outdoor tennis courts have pickleball courts nearby, or can be converted into pickleball courts. In the wintertime, check out the middle and high school gyms in your local area. Open court times, especially for indoor winter seasons, vary greatly each year. Many schools are offering open gym times for pickleball play for a minimal charge of as little as $5 per player.

Buffalo (Bison) Activity Center: https://www.isginc.com/portfolio/buffalo-bison-activity-center

Buffalo Hanover Montrose Schools: https://www.bhmschools.org/quick-links

Monticello Community Center:  http://www.monticellocommunitycenter.com/ Tuesdays 5:00-8:45. Requires a pass.

Albertville- St. Michael Area- Rogers Tennis Club: https://www.rogerstennisclub.com/pages/index.cfm?siteid=21851

Minneapolis- Lucky Shots, an epic 12 court pickleball club- https://luckyshotspickleball.com/

Source: https://usapickleball.org/about-us/organizational-docs/pickleball-fact-sheet/

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