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Is Pickleball Worth The Price Of Injury? You Have To Ask?

July 01, 2023 3 min read

Is Pickleball Worth The Price Of Injury? You Have To Ask?

 A study says Pickleball injuries among older players cost millions. Imagine the cost of the alternative, which is sitting. Photo courtesy National Senior Games Association.

 

*1,601 Pickleball players are registered for National Senior Games, more than any other sport.

By Ray Glier

Those orthopedic doctors who fund the tear down of tennis courts so two pickleball courts can go up—and then hang their advertisement on the fence—know a good investment when they see one. They are not preying on people, just filling a need.

Older Americans, always on the look out for fun and reinventing how they exercise, have thrown themselves into pickleball. There is fun and camaraderie, and all that. There are also injuries as this story on CNN points out. The bottom line seems dreadful: $377 million in medical costs from pickleball injuries predominantly among us, Geezer Jocks.

But...

Actually I meant to say "bunk." not "but."

The study of the huge costs of pickleball to older athletes is skewed. Some of the data was gathered before the craze reached down into younger age groups. 

And how would you like to go out? With a strained hip, or heart attack from lack of exercise? With an inflamed knee that can be rehabilitated, or disabled with weight gain and possibly diabetes?

“It was 86% of PB injuries being with 60+ folks and they were the only age group playing the sport until late in the last decade,” said Del Moon, the Communications and Media Director for The National Senior Games Association. “That stat will level off quite a bit with the masses involved now.

“And what is the health cost for people to be inactive and sedentary? You have to consider that side of the equation with this age group too.”

Andrew Walker, the NSGA Health and Well-Being Director, said the NSGA has studied athlete injuries at The Senior Games since 2011.

“As far as our population of pickleball players is concerned, we have not seen an excessive amount of athletes getting injured at the games, anecdotally or observationally,” Walker said. “We collect information on injuries at the games and we don’t believe there is a rash, or a run, of injuries.”

The NSGA will team up with the University of Pittsburgh, one of the leading sports science programs in the country, to study injuries at the 2023 games.

There will be 1,601 pickleball players registered for the tournament in Pittsburgh, age 50 and up, the most of any sport.

Walkers wonders if the research acknowledged the absence of a large enough cohort to study whether 60+ athletes were getting injured more than athletes in their 40s and 50s.

Alice Tym, one of the top senior pickleball players in the country, has some doubts about 60-year old's out-pacing injuries to younger players.

“For instance, you get these younger players and they want to hit the ball hard,” Tym said. “The guy on the other side of the net doesn’t have the experience to know what’s coming at him and he suffers an eye injury. I have seen that a lot.”

There is also increasing prize money in professional pickleball. Athletes are over-training and straining to win because, suddenly, there is a pot of money at the net. Injuries are bound to happen.

The NSGA’s Walker wonders what fitness level has been achieved by people getting injured. Are the players who are not involved in local pickleball leagues preparing themselves for the sudden movements demanded by the sport?

“This is a good alert for us to check out in Pittsburgh and to increase awareness,” Walker said. 

So before you rush back to golf over fear of pickleball injury, do this. Stretch. Do some work on your fitness before you get to the court. Don't just jump in because you might land on that orthopedic doc's table.

"I think the benefit of getting out and being active far outweighs the injuries associated with this sport," said Dr. Boyd Haynes, an orthopedic surgeon in Newport News, Va., who is part of an older-athlete volleyball team, the Bonesetters.

"The injuries are relatively minor. I do feel a good strengthening program along with lessons initially will help prevent injury. A great flexibility program is invaluable." 

The message is: keep swinging away Geezer Jock.

Please support Geezer Jock. Don't just buy tee-shirts or hats, or make a $10 contribution, send me topics on trends that matter and let a journalist report and write with some flair and represent US.


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