Pickle Pain: Rising Pickleball Injuries Could Result in 67,000 ER Visits This Year

The trendy new court game is putting players on the injured list.
Pickleball is putting some players out of commission.
Pickleball is putting some players out of commission. / Bruce Yeung/GettyImages

Surely you’ve heard of pickleball, the trendy new recreational activity that looks like an amalgam of tennis and ping-pong, with some badminton thrown in. While knocking a ball underhand on a modestly sized court appears to be low impact, injuries from the game might cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately $377 million this year.

According to CNN, analysts with USB are forecasting that pickleball could represent 5 to 10 percent of unforeseen medical expenses for 2023, including 67,000 emergency room visits, 366,000 outpatient visits, and 9000 outpatient surgeries.

Pickleball is not an inherently dangerous activity. The likely driver of medical costs is the demographic: Pickleball is popular among seniors, who may suffer arm, wrist, and/or tendon injuries at a rate higher than younger participants. (An estimated eight in 10 injured pickleballers are over age 60.) That coupled with the rapid increase in players—an estimated 22 million people could play this year, up from 8.9 million in 2022 and 3.5 million players in 2019—means more medical issues.

If you’re an avid player, there are some steps you can take to avoid becoming a statistic. Some who suffer injuries put themselves at risk by overdoing it. If you’ve been sedentary, playing multiple games a week might be too taxing on your body. Try to ramp up your activity gradually.

It also pays to buy the proper footwear. Look for shoes meant for court play that offer more support for side-to-side movement. A good pair of sneakers can potentially prevent ankle sprains. You should also take time to warm up with some light jogging and stretching.