Is the Number One Injury in Pickleball Preventable?

Is the Number One Injury in Pickleball Preventable?

Pickleball is a popular sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is known for its fast-paced action and accessibility to players of all ages and skill levels. However, like any sport, pickleball carries the risk of injury. One of the most common injuries in pickleball is sprained ankles.

Understanding the Mechanics

To better understand how ankle injuries occur in pickleball, we need to examine the mechanics of the sport. Pickleball involves quick movements, sudden changes in direction, and frequent lateral movements. These actions put significant stress on the ankles, making them vulnerable to sprains.

Expanding on this, the quick movements in pickleball often require players to abruptly stop, pivot, and change direction. These rapid changes in movement can cause the ligaments supporting the ankle joint to stretch or tear, resulting in sprained ankles. Additionally, the lateral movements involved in pickleball, such as side-to-side shuffling and sliding, further strain the ankle joints and increase the risk of injury.

Causes of Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle joint are stretched or torn. In pickleball, this commonly happens when players make sudden stops, pivots, or land awkwardly after jumping. Other factors that contribute to ankle sprains include improper footwear, playing on uneven surfaces, lack of conditioning, and inadequate warm-up exercises.

Expanding on these causes, improper footwear can greatly increase the risk of ankle sprains. Shoes that do not provide proper support, stability, and traction can lead to instability and a higher chance of rolling or twisting the ankle during play. Playing on uneven surfaces, such as cracked or uneven courts, can also be a contributing factor as it increases the likelihood of tripping or misstep. Additionally, inadequate conditioning and a lack of warm-up exercises can result in weaker ankle muscles and reduced flexibility, making the ankles more susceptible to sprains.

Prevention Strategies

While ankle sprains are a common injury in pickleball, there are several preventative measures players can take to minimize the risk:

1. Wear Appropriate Footwear

Investing in a good pair of pickleball shoes is essential. These shoes are designed with features that provide stability, support, and traction, which can help prevent ankle sprains. It is important to choose shoes that fit well and provide proper ankle support.

When selecting pickleball shoes, look for ones with reinforced ankle support, cushioning in the midsole for shock absorption, and a grippy outsole for traction on various surfaces. Trying on different brands and styles to find the best fit for your feet is recommended.

2. Strengthen Ankle Muscles

Performing specific exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankles can help improve stability and reduce the likelihood of sprains. Exercises such as calf raises, ankle circles, and balance training can be beneficial in preventing injuries.

Calf raises are a great exercise for strengthening the calf muscles, which play a crucial role in ankle stability. Stand on the edge of a step or a sturdy elevated surface, with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly raise your heels as high as you can, then lower them below the step to stretch the calves. Repeat this exercise for several repetitions.

Ankle circles can help improve mobility and strengthen the ankle joint. Sit on a chair with your feet lifted off the ground. Slowly rotate your ankles in a circular motion, first in one direction and then the other. Perform this exercise for a few minutes on each ankle.

Balance training exercises, such as standing on one leg or using a balance board, can improve proprioception and enhance ankle stability. These exercises challenge the muscles and ligaments around the ankle to adapt and become stronger, reducing the risk of sprains.

3. Warm-up and Stretch

Before playing pickleball, it is crucial to warm up the body and stretch the muscles. This helps increase blood flow, flexibility, and prepare the ankles for the demands of the game. Dynamic stretches that involve movements similar to those in pickleball, such as walking lunges or lateral leg swings, are particularly effective.

Start your warm-up routine with a light cardiovascular activity, such as jogging or jumping jacks, to raise your heart rate and increase blood flow to the muscles. Follow this with dynamic stretches that target the lower body, including the ankles. Walking lunges can help warm up the leg muscles and promote flexibility in the hips and ankles. Perform a set of walking lunges, alternating legs, for about 10-15 repetitions.

Lateral leg swings are another effective warm-up exercise for the ankles. Stand next to a wall or a sturdy object for support. Swing one leg out to the side, crossing it in front of your body, and then swing it back out to the side. Repeat this swinging motion for several repetitions on each leg.

4. Modify Playing Surface

Avoid playing pickleball on uneven or slippery surfaces as they increase the risk of ankle sprains. Whenever possible, choose a court with a smooth and level playing surface. Additionally, ensure the court is free from debris or obstacles that could cause a tripping hazard.

If you notice any cracks, bumps, or other hazards on the court, report them to the appropriate authorities or court maintenance personnel. Playing on a well-maintained and clean court can significantly reduce the risk of ankle sprains.

5. Take Breaks and Listen to Your Body

Overuse and fatigue can contribute to injuries, including ankle sprains. It is essential to take regular breaks during play and listen to your body's signals. If you start feeling pain or discomfort in your ankles, it is important to rest and seek appropriate medical attention if necessary.

Pickleball is a physically demanding sport, and pushing through pain or ignoring signs of fatigue can lead to more serious injuries. Allow yourself time to rest and recover between games or practice sessions. If you experience persistent pain or swelling in your ankles, consult with a healthcare professional or a certified pickleball instructor for evaluation and guidance.

6. Learn Proper Technique

Learning and practicing proper technique can significantly reduce the risk of ankle sprains in pickleball. This includes maintaining proper body alignment, using correct footwork, and employing balance and stability techniques. Taking lessons from an experienced coach or instructor can help improve your technique and minimize the chances of injury.

When playing pickleball, focus on maintaining a balanced stance with your weight evenly distributed. Avoid leaning too far forward or backward, as this can put excessive strain on the ankles. Proper footwork, such as using small, quick steps and pivoting with control, can help reduce the risk of sudden twists or rolls.

Working with a coach or instructor can provide valuable feedback and guidance on your technique. They can identify any areas of improvement and provide specific drills or exercises to enhance your skills while minimizing the risk of ankle sprains.

7. Use Ankle Braces or Supports

For players who have a history of ankle injuries or feel they need additional support, wearing ankle braces or supports can offer extra protection. These devices can help stabilize the ankle joint and reduce the risk of sprains.

Ankle braces or supports come in various forms, such as lace-up braces, wrap-around supports, or compression sleeves. Choose a device that provides the level of support and comfort you need without restricting your range of motion. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper fitting and usage.

While ankle braces can provide added support, it is still important to address the underlying causes of ankle sprains, such as weak muscles or improper technique. Using braces should be seen as a temporary solution while working on strengthening the ankles and improving overall technique.


While ankle sprains are a prevalent injury in pickleball, they are often preventable with proper precautions. By wearing appropriate footwear, strengthening the ankle muscles, warming up, modifying the playing surface, taking breaks, learning proper technique, and using ankle supports if necessary, players can significantly reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Remember, prioritizing injury prevention is key to enjoying pickleball safely and minimizing downtime due to injuries. So, lace up your shoes, warm up properly, and play pickleball with confidence!


What is the most common injury in pickleball?
The most common injury in pickleball is sprained ankles.

What causes ankle sprains in pickleball?
Ankle sprains in pickleball are caused by sudden stops, pivots, landing awkwardly after jumping, improper footwear, playing on uneven surfaces, lack of conditioning, and inadequate warm-up exercises.

How can ankle sprains in pickleball be prevented?
Ankle sprains in pickleball can be prevented by wearing appropriate footwear, strengthening ankle muscles, warming up and stretching, modifying the playing surface, taking breaks, learning proper technique, and using ankle braces or supports if necessary.

Are ankle braces or supports recommended for preventing ankle sprains in pickleball?
Ankle braces or supports can offer extra protection for players who have a history of ankle injuries or feel they need additional support. However, it is important to address the underlying causes of ankle sprains and not rely solely on braces or supports.

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