Pickleball-related injuries are on the rise, doctors say| Trending Viral hub

As the popularity of pickleball has skyrocketed, so has the number of serious injuries among players.

Pickleball-related bone fractures have increased 200% over the past 20 years, according to an analysis of a large government injury database presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons on Monday.

Pickleball, played with a perforated plastic ball and wooden paddles on a badminton-sized court, is the fastest-growing sport in the US, with player numbers increasing from 4.8 million in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2023, according to USA Pickleball. .

What are the most common pickleball injuries?

The overall injury rate is likely much higher. The new analysis only looked at fractures, not more common soft tissue injuries, such as ankle sprains or debilitating knee injuries, such as ACL or ACL damage. Other common pickleball injuries include rotator cuff injuries, worsening arthritis, Achilles tendon tears/strains, and foot fractures.

The vast majority of fractures found in the new study, 92%, occurred during falls.

“While pickleball is a great sport, nothing is risk-free,” said the study’s lead author, Yasmine Ghattas, who is in her final year of medical school at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando. .

The researchers are not advocating that people stop playing pickleball, just to be better prepared. “Well-informed participation in any activity is key,” he said.

Ghattas had a personal interest in the subject.

“My fiance and I play pickleball regularly and we are both entering the orthopedic field,” she said. “During our clinical rotations, we noticed more and more patients coming in with pickleball-related fractures, so we looked to see if there were any studies and there weren’t, so we decided to dig deeper.”

The database the researchers used to explore the topic, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, contained a representative sample of injuries collected from 100 U.S. emergency departments. Ghattas and colleagues found descriptions of 377 pickleball-related fractures in the database between 2002 and 2022, which, when extrapolated to the entire US population, amounted to approximately 5,400 pickleball-related fractures per year.

Women, especially those aged 65 and older, were more likely than men to suffer a fracture. Most of these fractures occurred in the bones of the upper body, such as those in the forearms and hands. Researchers suspect they were related to osteoporosis or other bone-thinning conditions.

Although women suffered more fractures overall, men were 2.3 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital after breaking a bone. Ghattas and his colleagues suspect this is because the men’s fractures tended to occur in lower body bones, such as the hip and femur, which are more likely to lead to hospitalization than fractures in the lower body. upper body.

While the rise in injuries may be primarily related to the growth of the sport, other factors may be coming into play, said Dr. Eric Bowman, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

For example, some of the people who play the sport may not have learned enough about it beforehand, said Bowman, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s not enough to pick up an oar and go out on the field,” he said. “As with any sport, you have to learn the mechanics and form that leads to better performance and injury prevention. “Some people may not have learned enough or are not physically prepared beforehand.”

A study co-authored by Bowman and not yet published finds that between 2017 and 2022, the incidence of pickleball-related injuries increased faster than the growth in the sport’s popularity.

Bowman’s study found that soft tissue injuries were the most common overall. Increasingly, fractures and worsening arthritis were found in patients aged 60 years and older.

While a sport like pickleball might be good for the cardiovascular system, the study shows that people should be careful about how to start, said Dr. Spencer Stein, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery in the division of sports medicine at NYU Langone Health. In New York.

“You have to be careful every time you start a new sport,” Stein said. “You should go to your primary care doctor and get screened for osteoporosis or bone thinning.”

It’s also important to warm up before playing and choose the right footwear for the sport, Stein said. And you must learn a very important skill: falling in a way that is unlikely to cause injury, she said. “If you fall more to your side, you can protect your head but without putting your wrists at risk,” she added.

People tend to think pickleball is relatively safe because it is a lower-impact sport than tennis, for example, Stein said. But still, competitiveness can lead people to exaggerate.

Stein notes that middle-aged women may already be losing bone, putting them at risk for fractures. That’s why it’s important to get a bone scan, she said. “Usually people start having these scans at age 65, but if there is a family history of fractures, it makes sense to start earlier, even at age 50,” she added.

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