By: Dr. Anna Kuljian, PT, DPT


Pickleball has been around since 1965 but its popularity has heated up the courts this year. Pickleball is a fusion of tennis, ping pong, and badminton. It uses lightweight wooden paddles, a perforated plastic ball with a low bounce height, low net, small court (44 ft long X 20 ft wide), and unique rules to the game. While no pickles are involved, it’s a great way to socialize, exercise in a leisurely or competitive manner, can be played at any age, and is affordable.


Just walking by Central Park or Carl Schurtz Park courts you can see that pickleball is thriving here in NYC. In the past three years it’s been the quickest growing sport in America. 36.5 million people in the US are picklers!1 The surge in popularity is correlated with a rise in pickleball injuries which are estimated to cost Americans up to $500 million this year!


  • Ankle InjuryPickleball involves jumping and quick side to side motions. If the ankle and foot muscles aren’t ready to absorb those forces when landing on the feet or you have improper footwear, “twisting” an ankle is possible. This means the ligaments or tendons overstretch or tear which could result in an ankle sprain or achilles tendinopathy.
    • Preventative Exercises    
Calf Raises
Hops Fwd/Bwd
Hops Side-Side
  • Knee StrainWith all of the multi-directional movements, pivots, quick stops and changes of direction in pickleball, it’s important to make sure all of your knee and hip muscles are strong.
    • Preventative Exercises 
Hamstring Curls
Pallof Press in Partial Squat
  • Hamstring StrainThe muscle on the back of your thigh can get overstretched when quickly slowing down or stopping. It’s important to warm up before playing and gentle leg swings forward to backward are a good way to achieve this. You also want to work the hamstrings with an emphasis on lengthening while strengthening the muscle as well as perform power exercises.
    • Preventative Exercises 
Single Leg Deadlift
Kettlebell Swings
  • Low Back PainDinking in the non-volley zone often involves a lot of forward bending and twisting in the low back. If a pickler does not have enough low back mobility or the proper footwork, which is more common in lower-level picklers, this could eventually lead to low back pain.
    • Preventative Exercise 
Jefferson Curl
  • Tendonitis in the Arm or Wrist“Pickleball elbow”, more commonly known as tennis elbow, can occur when there are poor movements at the wrist, forearm, or elbow. These are impacted by poor ball contact, being in the wrong area of the court, and improper footwork positioning. Shoulder injuries can also occur but tend to be more common in tennis players than picklers.
    • Preventative Exercises 
Farmer’s Carry
Wrist Extensor Stretch
Wrist Flexor Stretch
  • Fall InjuriesAs with any physical activity, falls can happen. With pickleball’s multi-directional movements and jumps, a misstep or poor landing could result in a fall. Often, when people fall, reaching the arm out towards the ground is the immediate reaction. This motion puts one at risk for injuries which may include broken bone(s) in the hand, wrist, and arm.
    • Preventative Exercises 
Balance on Foam/Pillow + Ball Toss


Overall, when it comes to injury prevention, rolling out of bed, grabbing a cup of joe, and hitting the courts is not ideal, literally, and figuratively! It’s important to warm up prior to the game for 5-10 minutes with dynamic stretches by moving all your joints through light movements in all directions. You can make it sport specific and get some balance in with some partnered volleys while standing on one leg or in a tandem split stance. After the game, cool down with some static stretches which I recommend holding for at least 30 seconds. What to do between games? Strength, balance, and cardio exercise. Not only will these tips help prevent injury, but they’ll help you play at your peak performance!

If you’re a pickler, new, aspiring, or have been doing it for years and think you may benefit from physical therapy, Spring Forward Physical Therapy can help you! You can call our clinic at 212-996-9700 or email questions to me at


  5. Exercise images from and