Forbes released an article yesterday pinning the rise of healthcare costs to injuries sustained playing pickleball. While the article is slanted to reflect the increased pressure on the Medicare system, some common sense needs to be applied here.
*A report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association showed a 113.1% increase in pickleball participation from 2020 to 2022.
*In December 2022, Sports Illustrated called the sport “the fastest-growing” in America.
*According to a study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 76% of pickleball players surveyed were 55 years or older.
*According to this report from PubMed, "senior males were three-and-a-half times more likely than females to suffer a pickleball-related strain or sprain, whereas women were over three-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a fracture compared to men and nine times more likely to suffer a wrist fracture."
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that an increase in participation will naturally lead to more injuries. It also makes sense that anyone not used to more dynamic movements that include starting, stopping, planting, jumping, etc. is going to be more prone to injury if they don't work their way into these types of movements.
If you've been to the gym lately, what do you see most adults doing there? I see a lot of moderately-paced running, some cycling, some walking, some elliptical, and a lot of weight lifters. To be blunt, the exercises being performed aren't necessarily training the body to go out and play pickleball.
The quotation above about senior males getting hurt all the time makes a lot of sense when a lot of these guys haven't played a competitive sport in years. A deep lunge to reach for a fleeting ball is absolutely possible in the mind of most of these men, and then BANG!, there goes the hamstring.
For whatever reason, the word "training" is removed from the dictionary as we age. It's cool to be on a training program when you're in high school; it's not cool at all when you're 60. Why is that? If this stereotype didn't exist, more people would play sports for longer. The only competitive option to break a sweat wouldn't be the local 5k for parents. And, we'd start to see a massive change in both the layout and behavior at the gym.
If you run 3 miles on the treadmill everyday, good for you. I have no issues with that. But, I've always felt that it's good for both the mind and body to mix it up a bit. Stretch, reach, pull, push, jump, lean, shoot...the list goes on. If you train your body with functional movements, you'll naturally be able to function better in more things. So, my challenge to you today is this:
1. If you play pickleball (or another sport) and get hurt all the time, think about why that is.
2. Train like an athlete, and you'll be more athletic.
3. Last, let's all continue to play sports as we age. The glass half full crowd reads this and gasps. The other side claps in applause because more people are being active in something that's not running, walking, or golf.
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John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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