3 COMMON PICKLEBALL INJURIES.

low back extensor muscle strain

tennis/pickleball elbow 

ankle/foot injuries

I am delighted to have a guest blogger for this edition, Lizl Kotz, who offers her tips and advice for pickleball injuries. Allow me to introduce Lizl, Body Helix’s newest Ambassador. An accomplished Physical Therapist, Tennis Professional, and Pickleball Professional, Lizl provides valuable guidance on how to prevent injuries and tips on how to improve pickleball skills. 

Lizl’s sports career

Lizl Kotz grew up in South Africa. Her interest in sports and performance was sparked as a young child by watching her dad train and compete in the famous Comrades Ultramarathon. Lizl played junior tennis in South Africa and continued to play at a national level when she moved to the US at age 15. She lived and trained at Van Der Meer Tennis Academy during her high school years and was recruited to play Division I college tennis for Indiana University. She rose to the number 1 spot in her junior and senior seasons. 

After graduating from IU with degrees in Exercise Science and Psychology, Lizl received her master’s degree in physical therapy from the Medical University of South Carolina. She pursued a career that would allow her to work with athletes. Lizl recently added Pickleball to her list of passions, now competing at the pro level. She is enjoying learning the ins and outs of a new sport. After four months of competing, her pro singles DUPR ranking is listed as 14th in the US. 

Lizl resides in Charleston, SC and stays busy raising four children. She still competes in tennis and Pickleball. Lizl has represented the US on the Women’s 40s Tennis Cup Team in the World Tournament. USTA awarded her the Southern Player of the Year Award in 2020. In 2020 and 2021, she coached the Lucy Beckham High School Girls’ Tennis Team to State Championships and was selected Coach of the Year by the regional coaches.  Lizl is grateful for the way sports have enriched her life and wishes the same for all athletes. 

3 most common pickleball injuries

Lizl’s expertise as a physical therapist and her experience as a high-level athlete allows her to understand athletes’ physical and mental demands. Lizl sheds light on the most common injuries associated with pickleball and advice to prevent these.

Lizl Kotz professional pickleball player hitting backhand drive

1. Low back extensor muscle strain

Injury: Good dinking form requires a low center of gravity, with the player reaching in and volleying the deeper balls to take away time from the opponent. This ‘reaching in’ move requires the player’s body to squat while the paddle dips into the kitchen. This body position asks a lot of the back extensor muscles and can cause a lot of fatigue, strain. 

Counter-attack: Squats strengthen the gluteus maximus muscles. The glute muscles are designed to get our bodies low, but if not strong, the back extensors tend to do all the work. When your glutes work well, the back extensors function as the passenger instead of being the main driver for these moves and can help you minimize injuries. Squat while holding a light medicine ball to make this more specific to Pickleball. 

Counter-attack for low back extensor muscle strain exercise.

2. Tennis/Pickleball elbow 

Injury: Lateral epicondylitis (commonly known as ‘tennis elbow’) can occur in just about everyone, but it commonly afflicts racquet-sport players due to the wrist involvement. Injury is frequently due to improper form. In proper pickleball form, the motion should originate in the shoulder, and the rest of the arm moves as a unit. The wrist and the paddle should be stable, and the power should generate from the shoulder blade instead of the wrist.

Counter-attack: Start with a kettlebell by your side. SLOWLY bend the elbow bringing the kettlebell to the shoulder. Now lift the kettlebell to the ceiling, pausing at the top and then slowly lower in 2 steps to shoulder and then back to the starting position. Remember, the top-heavy kettlebell forces the stabilizing muscles to control the kettlebell. It’s best to focus on the lowering action of the kettlebell exercise because it’s been shown that the eccentric phase helps with injury prevention.

3. Ankle-Foot injuries

Injury: Pickleball’s quick left to right movements put the ankle joint at high risk for sprain injuries. Many players also complain of foot pain due to the hours of pounding on hard courts.

Pickleball Professional Lizl Kotz demonstrating Bosu ball exercise.

Counter-attack: Practice balancing on one foot. Take 10 minutes 2-3 times a week to practice standing one-legged on an AIREX pillow or BOSU ball. The unstable surface will challenge and strengthen the protective muscles in the foot and ankle. Also, invest in good court shoes that offer lateral stability with a large toe box. Unfortunately, many shoe companies are guilty of making great-looking shoes with a narrow toe box. Our feet need plenty of room in shoe length and toe box width to splay and stabilize while we run down those winners.

In the coming weeks we’ll talk more about pickleball injury statistics and review other common pickleball injuries including knee injuries and even head injuries.

Pickleball terminology

For those not fully versed in pickleball, here are some terms with which you may like to become familiar. 

“DUPR” (Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating) is a global rating system in Pickleball. Regardless of their age, gender, location, or skill, all players are rated on the same scale between 2.000-8.000 based on their match results. 

“Dinking” is a slower, softer shot hit from near the no-volley line that drops downward once it crosses the net and lands in the opponent’s no-volley zone. When you hit this shot, it causes your opponent to let the ball bounce before hitting it, which usually forces them to hit upward on the ball.

The “kitchen” is also known as the no-volley-zone, implying that the player cannot stand in or be in contact with the zone during a volley or initiate a volley from this zone. The ball must have bounced before stepping into the kitchen to hit it—the kitchen rule keeps players from standing right at the net to smash balls.

Lizl Kotz professional pickleball player

The name of the game

You must admit, Pickleball is a strange name for a sport. Some believe the name came about because the wife of one of its creators had been a competitive rower. A mismatched crew boat is called the ‘pickle boat.’  Being a hodgepodge of other sports – tennis, badminton, and ping-pong – ‘pickle ball’ was born. Another anecdote claims it was named after the inventor’s dog, “Pickles,” who liked to chase the Wiffle ball. In any case, the name has nothing to do with the food – unless, of course, you still want to guzzle pickle juice for cramps. 

This year (2022) marks the 57th anniversary of Pickleball. However, the last five years have seen dramatic rises in pickleball participation across the country. The fastest-growing demographic is seen in ages 18-54. With the growth it’s no surprise to see pickleball injuries on the rise. The US Open Pickleball Championships (Naples, Florida) is the largest spectator and participation pickleball tournament globally, attracting over 25,000 visitors over seven days. The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP), the world governing body of Pickleball, is working on getting more countries interested in Pickleball and ultimately seeks official recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to establish Pickleball as an Olympic sport.

Endurance Hydration Fuel

Body Helix started by seeking the best compression design, fabric science and innovation for athletes. Like Pickleball, our brand has grown over the last few years. Body Helix offers the highest quality compression products, and we bring the same rigor to our Hydro Helix formula. We continually research to provide reliable information and actionable tips to optimize your healthspan and reduce injuries.  Pickleball is a fantastic alternative or addition to your workout routine.  It’s great exercise and loads of fun.  I’m still learning.

Learn. Share. Inspire.

Until next week my friends,
Coach Fred

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