Pickleball – New Challenges and Opportunities

In 2023, pickleball was the fastest-growing sport for the third year in a row, and estimates are that over 36.5 million people have played pickleball at least once in the last year. Part of the appeal of pickleball is that it is a fun game with easy rules that can be played by people of all ages (Vitale & Liu, 2020). Over 60 percent of players are males (Mackie, 2023). Pickleball is being played at the recreational and competitive levels. In 2023, USA Pickleball sanctioned 195 tournaments, including the National Indoor Championships and the 2nd annual USA Pickleball Diamond Amateur Championship (USA Pickleball, 2024). Pickleball is played on all continents of the world (World Pickleball Federation, 2022).

Based on its rising popularity, you would think that the court sport was just invented, but you may be surprised to learn that pickleball was invented 59 years ago on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum invented the game to engage their bored children. A charming little detail of its history reveals that pickleball was named after the cocker spaniel of the Pritchard family, named Pickles (USA Pickleball, 2024).

Photo by Aleksander Saks on Unsplash

The popularity of pickleball offers numerous opportunities, ranging from engaging many people in active sports participation with increased personal well-being, happiness, and decreased depression and stress (Elegeert, Justice, Shipman, Guyer, & Beaver, 2024) to increased revenue and profit margins for manufacturers of pickleball equipment. The global pickleball paddle market was close to $150 million in 2021 and is expected to increase to over $317 million in 2031 (“Pickelball paddles market report overview,” 2024)

Of interest to healthcare providers is that pickleball players get injured at alarming rates. Pickleball players frequently consult with healthcare providers, including physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, or athletic trainers. Simultaneously, physical therapists, healthcare institutions, and even insurance companies are reaching out to pickleball players and pickleball organizations, offering classes, workshops, and individual consultations and providing injury prevention, courtside consultations, and individual treatments for recovery and rehabilitation. Some clinicians have even set up walk-in clinics for orthopedic or sports injuries only.

The cost associated with injuries because of playing pickleball was $377 million in 2023, with 67,000 emergency department visits, 366,000 outpatient visits, 8,800 outpatient surgeries, 4,700 hospitalizations, and 20,000 post-acute injury episodes, according to analysts of UBS Group AG (Lengell, 2023).

From a clinical point of view, it is important to realize that patients 50 years or older make up over 90% of the patients seeking emergency care because of pickleball (Forrester, 2020). Strains, sprains, and fractures were the most common injuries affecting both the upper (25.4%) and lower (32.0%) extremities (Forrester, 2020). Elegeert and colleagues anticipate a rise in foot and ankle injuries (Elegeert et al., 2024). However, a scoping review found only four epidemiological pickleball studies, which confirmed that more data is needed (Casals, Jimenez, Caparros, Martínez-Gallego, & Baiget, 2023).

Clinicians planning to get more involved with pickleball injury prevention and treatment should consider attending the Myopain Seminars Dry Needling of Athletes course series. Listen to what our students are reporting about the Dry Needling of Athletes courses:

Dry Needling of Athletes was a great course! As a Sports Medicine Physical Therapist, it was great information on not just managing pain and dysfunction, but performance as well!

Chicago, IL, Dean Coulter, PT, DPT

Jan Dommerholt, PT, DPT, President/Owner, Myopain Seminars

Some references

Casals, M., Jimenez, S., Caparros, T., Martínez-Gallego, R., & Baiget, E. (2023). Scoping review and quality of studies on the epidemiology of pickleball injuries. Apunts Sports Medicine, 58(217), 100403. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apunsm.2023.100403

Elegeert, E., Justice, A. J., Shipman, R. M., Guyer, A. J., & Beaver, J. (2024). Foot and Ankle Injuries with the Rise of Pickleball. Physician Assistant Clinics, 9(1), 71-79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpha.2023.07.008

Forrester, M. B. (2020). Pickleball-Related Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments. Journal of Emergency Medicine, 58(2), 275-279. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2019.09.016

Lengell, S. (2023). Pickleball injuries are to blame for surging health care costs: Kiplinger Economic Forecasts. Retrieved from https://www.kiplinger.com/personal-finance/health-insurance/pickleball-injuries-kiplinger-economic-forecasts

Mackie, B. (2023). Pickleball statistics: America’s fastest growing sport in 2023. Retrieved from https://www.pickleheads.com/blog/pickleball-statistics

Pickelball paddles market report overview. (2024). Retrieved from https://www.businessresearchinsights.com/market-reports/pickleball-paddles-market-101818

USA Pickleball. (2024). USA Pickleball Annual Growth Report. Retrieved from https://usapickleball.org/about-us/organizational-docs/pickleball-annual-growth-report/

Vitale, K., & Liu, S. (2020). Pickleball: Review and Clinical Recommendations for this Fast-growing Sport. Curr Sports Med Rep, 19(10), 406-413. https://doi.org/10.1249/jsr.0000000000000759

World Pickleball Federation. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.worldpickleballfederation.org/

The Obvious Choice for Dry Needling Education

Dry Needling of Athletes Course Series

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This course is designed to incorporate dry needling in the overall care of athletes and is particularly suited for physical therapists with an athletic patient population and athletic trainers. Students will review the anatomy, function, and dry needling techniques for many muscles. The course will also address when and how to incorporate dry needling into athletic training for amateur and professional athletes, and review recovery and performance enhancements.

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The DN-AT 2/2 course builds on the knowledge and skills of the DN-AT 1/2 course. Students will be introduced to the clinical aspects of myofascial pain, the etiology and scientific basis of myofascial pain and dry needling, and dry needling for injury prevention, maintenance, and performance enhancement of athletes. The DN-AT 2/2 course will bring the athletic trainer to the highest level of clinical proficiency in the management of athletes with myofascial pain.

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First of three courses required to receive certification with Myopain Seminars Dry Needling Program – CMTPT. The DN-1 Foundations I course features a brief introduction to the history of dry needling, trigger points, and myofascial pain, an in-depth review of possible adverse events, the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standards within the context of dry needling, and an introduction to relevant pain sciences.

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