Pickleball Fit

Phil Goldstein  |  North Forty News

If you already play pickleball and are in great physical shape, this article is probably not for you; if you play pickleball and are in not-so-great shape, this might interest you; and if you don’t play pickleball yet but were thinking about taking up the game, this will possibly discourage you from doing so.

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Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the country, has caught on in a big way in Northern Colorado, where the combined membership of all the area communities’ clubs alone number in the thousands, with play going on at one area venue or another on any given day.

Although experience in racquet or paddle sports is helpful in learning the game, it’s not essential, nor is a high level of fitness or athletic prowess, hence pickleball’s popularity.

Unfortunately, that popularity is coming at a significant cost to players’ health, particularly among older players who may not be physically fit or understand the demands the exertion places on their bodies.

According to a UBS study, 67,000 emergency room visits, 366,000 outpatient visits, 9,000 surgeries, and almost $400 million in healthcare costs related to pickleball are projected for just this year. Furthermore, 86 percent of pickleball-related ER visits are by seniors. My wife and I are perfect examples, both having undergone orthopedic surgeries lately due to pickleball injuries. 

So I’m guessing that any orthopedic specialist would no doubt advise obsessive fans of the sport—especially if one’s lifestyle is more sedentary these days—that even a modicum of fitness and flexibility training aside from actually playing pickleball would greatly reduce the likelihood of injury and probably enhance one’s playing ability and stamina. Certainly, both my and my wife’s surgeons commented to that effect.

Regarding these fitness activities, we’re not talking Navy Seal training regimen here either, only a regular program of brisk running, walking, swimming, biking or other cardiovascular exertion. Some modest weight training would be a valuable bonus.

In addition, a proper warmup, including stretching prior to playing, helps prevent injuries. The typical five minutes of pickleball ‘dinking’ before competitive play hardly suffices for this purpose.

Lest I be considered a hypocrite given my status as one of the unfortunate statistics cited above, I readily acknowledge that even my regular fitness routine, aside from pickleball, obviously provided no guarantee of avoiding the operating room. But with that said, if you enjoy playing the sport, why not dedicate a little extra time each week to perhaps avoid getting sidelined? And you might just play better and longer, too!

Phil Goldstein is in his fourth year writing Tales from Timnath for North Forty News. Phil is a 13-year Timnath resident who is finally using his West Virginia University journalism degree after getting sidetracked 50 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.