Pickleball continues attracting new players every day, but the number of injuries related to the sport is rising locally, too.

Current situation

Rosharon resident Alexis Morrow was playing tennis with a friend at a community court in northeast Houston when the friend asked her if she’d like to play pickleball.

Eager to try her hand at America’s fastest-growing sport, Morrow, a 30-year-old speech pathologist, picked up a paddle and began to play. Within 30 minutes of stepping onto the pickleball court, the lifelong athlete experienced her first sports injury: a complete tear of her ACL and meniscus.

Pickleball can be played both indoors and outdoors and combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, according to Pearland Sports Academy, which offers specialty sports training in pickleball, archery, karate and badminton.

The background

In February, USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, counted 70,000 members, a 30% increase from the previous year.

Pearland and Friendswood are not exempt from the pickleball craze that has swept the nation.

Between the two cities, there are nearly two dozen places to play pickleball at local gyms, parks and public recreation centers. Local players have even found community within social media groups, such as Friendswood Pickleball Club and Pearland Rec Center Pickleball Group, both of which boast hundreds of members.

One of the biggest drivers of the sport’s popularity is its accessibility for players of all skill levels and ages, Texas Orthopedic Hospital’s Dr. Ronak Patel said. However, patients over age 50 are the demographic he most commonly sees for pickleball injuries.

“It's actually kind of remarkable that we have patients in that age group who are doing this kind of sport, so that's a great thing,” Patel said. “But having known that, these patients are already more active and have had other injuries, and they're a little bit more prone to exacerbating some of these injuries.”

Major takeaways

Patel, who treated Morrow in June, said over the past three to six months, he has seen on average two to three pickleball injuries per week.

Patel said the most common pickleball injuries he sees are in the knee and the shoulder. More recently, he has seen what is known as “‘pickleball elbow.” Pickleball elbow is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles due to bad mechanics, leading to pain, microtearing, inflammation and weakness, according to USA Pickleball.

For players who experience an injury courtside, Patel recommends to immediately follow the RICE—or rest, ice, compress and elevate—method, which will address minor sprains. However, he said those injured playing pickleball should seek medical care if the injury reveals itself to be more severe over time.

Many players, including Morrrow, initially underestimate the severity of their pickleball injury.

“I sprained my ankle before, but I had never broken any bones or torn anything,” Morrow said. “From the instant I jumped and landed, I kind of pivoted and heard a big pop. After seeing Dr. Patel, that's when I realized that I had completely torn my ACL and meniscus.”

To reduce the risk of injury, Patel recommends eating well, hydrating, and doing warmup and cool-down exercises before and after playing. He added performing strength training for injury-prone areas of the body, such as shoulders, hips and quad muscles, can also help prevent injury.