The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

As pickleball grows in popularity, so do injuries for seniors

Pickleball has been one of the fastest-growing sports in America, but a high number of seniors have been injured while playing.
Emily Nyberg
Iowa City community member David Ricci hits a ball at the Mercer Park pickleball courts in Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. Ricci is a member of Pickleball Johnson County, an organization that encourages adults in Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville to get involved in the up-and-coming sport.

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, but injuries, especially in older individuals, are also rapidly increasing.

Injuries from pickleball could cause over 67,000 emergency room visits and 9,000 outpatient surgeries this year, according to a UBS study. Kyle Duchman, a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert said many injuries are from falls, which is its own unique subset of injuries, especially in the older population.

Treating these injuries varies based on the type and severity of the injury, but the best course of action is to take preventative measures beforehand, Duchman said.

Duchman also noted that while some older people may be in shape, pickleball is different from more linear activities such as jogging or swimming. There are a lot more reactive movements that one can’t always predict, which means a completely different kind of load and strain on the muscles and tendons.

He said the best preventative strategy is to employ training that replicates the movements seen on pickleball courts, including exercises like box jumps and warming up before a match.

Fastest growing sport

Myra Clark, the ambassador for Pickleball Johnson County, gives lessons on the sport, which can prevent injuries from occurring on the court.

“People falling and hurting themselves — backing up — which they’re not supposed to do, and that’s why for lessons I take a long time, at least an hour, just showing doing a back-up,” Clark said.

Pickleball is one of the most popular sports in the U.S., according to The Pickleball Dinks’ statistics. Just 10-12 years ago, pickleball only had around 3 million players, and now has upward of 36 million.

Mary Ellen Hein, who is on the advisory board for Pickleball Johnson County, started playing 4 years ago.

“I’ve never played tennis or anything like that, so it was just something that I could pick up. I was never an athlete in high school or college,” Hein said. “I just look at it as we have to know our abilities.”

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Researchers have yet to discern if the increase in injuries is because of the higher volume of players, or if it is from an increase in people injuring themselves while playing, Duchman said.

Duchman and UIHC are aiming to help with preventative measures to avoid injury and further hospital bills.

“Worst case, it is going to be very expensive, but I would say that’s not necessarily the fault of pickleball but that’s somewhat the fault of the American health care system and the focus on reactive medicine instead of preventative medicine,” Duchman said.

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About the Contributors
Julia Rhodes, Reporter
Julia Rhodes is a first year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and minoring in Dance. She loves writing as well as presenting that work on screen and is hoping to be equally a Daily Iowan reporter as well as a DITV reporter. She enjoys writing about all topics from crime and politics to arts and public health.
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.