Pickleball Physical Therapy: Injury Recovery & Strength Training in New York City
Common Injuries from Playing Pickleball?
Lower Body Injuries From Playing Pickleball
Chronic Injuries From Playing Pickleball
Pickleball Strength Training
What to Expect in a Pickleball Physical Therapy Appointment
Pickleball & The Body
Everyone, from kids to seniors, is trying their hand at the fastest-growing sport in America, Pickleball. Unfortunately this is also leading to an equally fast rise in Pickleball injuries, especially among the 55 and older crowd. It’s not uncommon to enthusiastically jump right into this easy to pick up sport, forgetting our bodies don’t quite pivot and move the same as they did years earlier, and overexert ourselves.
The reality is as we get older, our muscles progressively lose both muscle mass and strength. Thus accompanying these muscular changes is our ability to physically react and change directions or act with agility, at the same speed and with the same stability, as we did years ago.
The decline in muscle and agility leads to a reduction in both balance and multidirectional gait speed, occasionally resulting in a trip, fall and injury while playing Pickleball. The good news is through physical therapy you can:
- Recover from any injuries you’ve sustained in playing Pickleball and;
- Improve your dynamic stability and prepare your body for the stresses of turning, pivoting, chasing, and reaching that Pickleball places upon your body.
- Receive physical therapy recovery and or training services at the convenience of your office or home through our concierge services in New York City that comes to you wherever you are.
It’s also worth noting that playing Pickleball with improper technique and footwork can predispose you to both acute and overuse injuries. If you are currently injured, our physical therapists are skilled at assessing and identifying any aches and pains and customizing a recovery treatment plan ensuring your speedy return to full health. You’ll not only quickly recover but you will thrive with professional guidance focused on strengthening your unique body to tolerate the physical demands of Pickleball.
If you’re not injured and have an interest in Pickleball, we encourage you to receive an evaluation and movement assessment that gauges body composition, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. Relative to your unique body mechanics, this will allow us to identify areas that could be incorporated into a custom exercise training program to not only keep you safe and injury free but also improve your performance on the Pickleball court. Best of all, you can receive a Pickleball fitness evaluation and assessment at the convenience of your home.
Common Injuries from Playing Pickleball
Pickleball produces both acute (happening quickly) and chronic (over time) injuries. The most common cause of injury while playing Pickleball is falling, which often happens when:
- Players are attempting to get to a ball just just outside of their reach, losing their balance and falling.
- Players try to backpedal while reaching for an overhead ball, contorting their upper body, neck, and back and losing their balance and falling.
- Players are trying to pivot and change directions to deliver a backhand shot, losing their balance and falling.
When falling we instinctively stretch out our arms, palms of our hands faced down with fingers splayed in protection. This natural response can cause an overstretching or slight tearing of the ligaments or even fracturing in the wrist once impacting the Pickleball court. You may hear this referenced as a “FOOSH” fracture or fall-on-out-stretched-hand. A FOOSH injury can pinpoint itself anywhere from your shoulder, elbow, forearm, and wrist. As previously mentioned, with age our body is unable to tolerate the impact of these falls on hard Pickleball court surfaces as it could when we were younger.
A common chronic injury is the torn rotator cuff muscle (shoulder). Even though in Pickleball, serves and volleys happen with paddles below shoulders, the repetitive use of force can cause a slight tear in the shoulder. The tear can become inflamed causing swelling, weakening, and pain developing into tendonitis or bursitis, and what’s called an “impingement”. The top outer edge of your shoulder blade is rubbing or pinching your rotator cuff beneath it. You don’t necessarily have to have a mishap on the Pickleball court or do anything abnormal or wrong to suffer a rotator cuff tear. In many cases rotator cuff tears can simply happen as a result of frequently playing Pickleball.
Lower Body Injuries From Playing Pickleball
Similar to other racquet sports, the most common lower body injuries in Pickleball involve the ankles, produced from the sudden changes of direction from one side of the court to the other. These injuries range from isolated strains to more seriously impaired movements of the foot. For example, achilles tendinitis (tendon strain), is the inflammation of the band of tissue connecting the calf muscle at the back of the lower leg with the heel bone that’s become swollen. This is a common outcome of a heightened intensity of continuous stop-and-go multi-dimensional ankle & foot action or in a nutshell, ‘overuse’.
Knee injuries, common in racquet sports can strike Pickleball players with the rapid starting, stopping and sudden turning movements producing an acute sprain of the knee (overstretching of a ligament). Knee sprains typically produce pain with weight bearing down that usually worsens with lateral movement since the surrounding ligaments are also affected. Within the knee acute injuries of the meniscus such as slight tears can often result in decreased range of motion, inability to bear weight without pain, and swelling.
All the muscle groups in the lower body are vulnerable to acute strain and include the quadriceps, hip flexors and adductors, hamstring muscles, and calf muscle. Strains can range from mild pulls to partial or complete tearing of the tendon or muscle body, producing pain with contracting or stretching.
In summary, the potential injuries that can occur in the lower body include:
- Calf strains and tears
- Flares of knee arthritis
- Herniated disks in the lower back
- Meniscus tears
- MCL and LCL strains
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hamstring strains
- Achilles injuries
- Ankle sprains
Chronic Injuries From Playing Pickleball
Chronic injuries incurred by Pickleball players generally arise from repetitive pounding (overuse) on the hard playing surface. Plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of the tissue that connects the bones in the foot) and heel contusions can strike the feet. Lumbar muscle (lower back) strains are a common injury associated with repetitive trunk rotation and forward bending in racquet sports while striking the ball.
In the upper body, forearm, wrist, and hand strains can become persistent and develop into “tennis or golfer’s elbow” – a painful condition where the forearm muscle tendons attach to the bony bump on the inner elbow. Backhanding in Pickleball can aggravate the outer area of the elbow and cause inflammation and possible micro-tears of tendon. Despite the predominantly underhand play of Pickleball, chronic shoulder injuries as strains of the rotator cuff can occur with repetitive stretching to reach for the ball and overhand volleys.
Players are susceptible to overuse injuries largely due to an insufficient warm up. A 5 – 10 minute warmup of stretching all the major muscle groups—the hamstrings, calves, quads, inner thighs, lower back, shoulders, and even wrists and elbows—before playing goes a long way in reducing your chance of injury. Even after playing a proper ‘cool down’ of walking and stretching will ensure episodes of leg cramps are few and far between. Stretching after playing Pickleball while the muscles are still warm breaks down the buildup of lactic acid (a cause of cramps) in your muscles and promotes their recovery.
Pickleball Strength Training
If you’re enjoying Pickleball or considering exploring the sport, we encourage you to receive an evaluation and movement assessment that gauges body composition, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. Relative to your unique body mechanics, this will allow us to identify areas that could be incorporated into a custom exercise training program to not only keep you safe and injury free but also improve your performance on the Pickleball court. Best of all, you can receive a Pickleball fitness evaluation and assessment at the convenience of your home.
Understanding your natural form, how you move will enable us to prescribe specific drills and exercises to reduce your chances of injury on the Pickleball court. The best way to stay injury free in Pickleball is to incorporate balance and flexibility training (an agility practice) with core strengthening as part of your weekly exercise regimen. However this can only come together after assessing your unique mechanics and aligning them to customized exercises tailored to the demands of Pickleball.
This is important because for example, it’s common to see players relying heavily on their arms playing instead of translating momentum from the rest of their body. Ideally, in Pickleball when taking strokes, swings, and shots, you want to incorporate energy from your legs, specifically from your hips, to generate power. A lack of incorporating energy from your legs to generate power is transferring the burden to your upper body and can increase stress, strain and the likelihood of injury on your upper body.
Many new to Pickleball rush into playing without a full picture of the physical demands that will be called upon them. For starters, Pickleball requires swift motions in both the lower and upper body. Multi directional starting and stopping, cutting and pivoting, as well as reaching and lunging for shots takes place with most gameplay. In sum you undergo a lot of power-based movements that will challenge your total fitness, balance, and coordination.
Our therapist can assess your natural body mechanics and identify the factors contributing to any coordination and balance impairments along with an exercise plan designed to correct these issues. Coordination describes the interaction of our muscles to perform accurate, smooth, and controlled physical responses. Proficient Pickleball coordination is consistently selecting the right muscle at the right moment and measured intensity appropriate for the aimed shot, be it a drop shot, a dink, overhead smash, a drive, or a lob shot.
We can design exercises that strengthen your muscles and neuromuscular control and train your muscles to respond with appropriate speed, distance, direction, and timing in context to your specific mechanics and the demands of Pickleball. A power-based training program includes quick and dynamic movements designed to improve speed and prevent injury.
What to Expect in a Pickleball Physical Therapy Appointment in New York City
An initial evaluation starts with a conversation where we’ll ask you to share your history of past injuries and overall health status. This is followed by an injury evaluation (if necessary) and a movement assessment to surface and identify all the contributing factors to any limitation affecting your coordination, balance, and overall function. If you have an injury we will assess what led to the injury and whether that’s due to stability, flexibility, or muscle weakness.
Generally this is followed with a comprehensive balance assessment to test the following systems:
- Somatosensory system (i.e., touch or tactile perception, body position, and pain)
- The vestibular system (awareness of the spatial position of our body and head, balance and self-motion)
- Musculoskeletal systems (i.e., provides our body with strength, stability, movement, range of motion, shape, support, joint health and is composed of bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and connective tissues etc.) Joint dysfunctions can lead to muscle spasms and create a cycle of pain
This information is used to structure a comprehensive Pickleball fitness and or recovery program combining mobility work, strengthening, manual techniques, and any appropriate pain relief technique or assistant devices.
Patients often have to wait weeks or months to gain access to providers—long enough for conditions to move from acute to chronic. I bring physical therapy to you, to meet your wellness goals with the convenience of a mobile service that comes to your home or office. My goal in delivering you personalized one-on-one care is for you to have a pain-free and healthy lifestyle. I provide a mobile physical therapy experience to Northern New Jersey and New York City that empowers, educates, and restores balanced healthy movement without the drive to appointments, having to re-schedule your day, or cope with crowds and traffic. – Jim Palmer, Physical Therapist
Pickleball New York City Resources & Courts
Where to Play Pickleball in New YorkCity
New York City Parks Pickleball Courts
Bronx Van Cortlandt Park Van Cortlandt Park S between John M. Collins Pl & Putnam Ave W # of Courts: 1 Requires Tennis Permit: No
Brooklyn John J Carty Park Fort Hamilton Pkwy between 99th & 100th Sts # of Courts: 10 Requires Tennis Permit: No
Leif Ericson Park 8th Avenue between 66th & 67th Sts # of Courts: 13 Requires Tennis Permit: No
Winthrop Playground Winthrop St between Bedford Ave & Rogers Ave # of Courts: 2 Requires Tennis Permit: Yes
Manhattan Howard Bennett Playground Between W. 135th & W. 136th Sts and between 5th Ave & Malcolm X Blvd
# of Courts: 6 Requires Tennis Permit: Yes
Accessible: Yes John Jay Park Cherokee Pl between E. 76th & E. 77th Sts # of Courts: 1 Requires Tennis Permit: Yes Accessible: No
Queens Highland Park Jamaica Ave between Cleveland and Warwick Sts # of Courts: 18 Requires Tennis Permit: Yes
Juniper Valley Park Juniper Blvd S between 78th St & 80th St # of Courts: 9 Requires Tennis Permit: Yes
Rockaway Beach And Boardwalk Shore Front Parkway and Beach 102nd Street # of Courts: 1 Requires Tennis Permit: No Accessible: Yes
Roy Wilkins Recreation Center Baisley Blvd between 177th St & 120th Ave # of Courts: 4Requires Tennis Permit: Yes
Staten Island Fairview Park Enter at Parking Lot on Bricktown Way & Tyrellan Ave
# of Courts: 3 Requires Tennis Permit: No Accessible: Yes
Outdoor Pickleball Courts in NYC
John J. Carty Park
Fort Hamilton Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11209
Four dedicated pickleball courts and nine tennis courts.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 2
150 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Four covered and lighted outdoor pickleball courts right on the water.
Sol Lain Playground
290 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002
Three outdoor pickleball courts open to the public weekdays after 3pm.
Carl Schurz Park
East 86th Street &, East End Ave, New York, NY 10028
Three outdoor pickleball courts – bring your own net just in case, but there are also some nets set up daily for open play. (Bonus: it’s right by the water!)
Happy Warrior Playground
Amsterdam Ave &, W 97th St, New York, NY 10025
Three outdoor courts on asphalt – bring your own net!
DeWitt Clinton Park
11th Ave. &, W 54th St, New York, NY 10019
Three outdoor courts (two on asphalt; one taped) near the water. Bring your own net!
St. Vartan Handball Courts
1st Avenue &, E 35th St, New York, NY 10016
Four painted handball courts – bring your own net!
Central Park North Meadow Handball Courts
NYC, Central Park West, New York, NY 10029
Three painted handball courts. Bring your own net and enjoy a beautiful day in Central Park.
Leif Ericson Park
8 Av/67 St, Brooklyn, NY 11220
Four dedicated pickleball courts and 9 tennis courts.
Roy Wilkins Park
Baisley Blvd, Queens, NY 11434
Four outdoor courts. Tennis permit (full-season or single-play permit) required during tennis season.
Howard Bennett Playground
32 W 136th St, New York, NY 10037
Six outdoor courts. Tennis permit (full-season or single-play permit) required during tennis season.
83 Cleveland St, Brooklyn, NY 11208
Eight dedicated pickleball courts and ten tennis courts. Tennis permit (full-season or single-play permit) required during tennis season.
Juniper Valley Park
80th Street Juniper Valley Park, Middle Village, NY 11379
Nine outdoor courts. Tennis permit (full-season or single-play permit) required during tennis season.
Indoor Pickleball Courts in NYC
Jackie Robinson Recreation Center
85 Bradhurst Ave., New York, NY 10039
Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center
232 W 60th St, New York, NY 10023
Alfred E. Smith Recreation Center
80 Catherine St, New York, NY 10038
Highbridge Recreation Center
2301 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10033
Constance Baker Motley Recreation Center
348 E 54th St, New York, NY 10022
New York City Parks & Recreation Centers with 1 or 2 pickleball courts
East River Playground (bring your own net)
Winthrop Playground (tennis permit required during tennis season)
John Jay Park (tennis permit required during tennis season)
What clients are saying…..
I started PT with Jim over FaceTime in the height of COVID. I have done a lot of PT, but this is the first PT that feels function oriented and strength building. Jim is encouraging and affable. He is always ready to cheer on my small wins! I highly recommend seeing Jim in-person or online!Catherine Galateria
Working with Dr. Palmer has been a pleasure. He took time up front to understand my injury, assess where I was stronger and where I was weaker and to talk through what I wanted to achieve. I can’t speak highly enough of Jim. He’s both technically excellent as well as just a genuinely nice person.Alex Lorton
…. After listening intently to my symptoms and doing some manual tests, Jim realized I had a different injury than the doctor had prescribed. He recommended fresh strengthening exercises which, combined with his stretching, improved my condition quickly. Jim also set me up for lasting relief by teaching me how to address the pain if/when it arises again.Marc Adelberg