Jamie Schneider

Beauty & Health Editor

By Jamie Schneider

Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

woman playing pickleball

Image by Ron Alvey / Stocksy

July 10, 2023

Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may

earn a small commission.

Let’s be clear up top: We are not anti-pickleball around here. It gets you outdoors! It’s adaptable for any age! It’s good for your brain! And most importantly—it’s fun! 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

“We have lost this narrative about the importance of play,” mobility pioneer and certified precision nutrition coach Juliet Starret shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. “It’s one of the reasons why I think pickleball is so important and awesome that it’s become so popular.” 

While we believe the best exercise is the one you’ll do, there’s something about heading to the gym by yourself that can feel austere or intimidating. “Anytime we can add in something that helps our bodies be durable and is playful is a gigantic win for humans,” Starrett adds. Pickleball ticks both boxes. 

But as the sport gains traction, we can’t ignore the rising rate of injuries. A study1 in the Journal of Emergency Medicine estimates around 19,000 pickleball injuries per year, and 90% of them affect individuals 50 years or older—although, these injuries aren’t simply age-related. 

According to the experts, it’s a little more nuanced than that. 

Why do people get injured from pickleball?

Even those generally considered “fit” and “lean” are not immune to these injuries. Why? Two main reasons. 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Ignoring your mobility 

According to physical therapist Kelly Starrett, who (along with his wife, Juliet) has spent decades working with pro athletes, Olympians, and Navy SEALs, there’s a big difference between staying active and maintaining optimal mobility.

“We have a lot of people who have been only [spinning] or running, where they’re just doing something in a single direction or a single position,” he notes. “Chances are their workout regimen outside of pickleball is very linear.” 

Then when they lunge and change directions at high speeds for hours on end, joints and tissues literally start to crumble. “You did your one hour of elliptical, and you thought that that was going to prepare and you load your tissues. It wasn’t,” Kelly adds. 

But it’s not your fault: “This is our industry,” he explains. As a society, we’re encouraged to exercise for an hour or two per day—either cardio or strength training—and believe that’s enough to check our “movement box.” However, “it turns out to be not enough total movement in the day,” Juliet notes. And if you don’t load your feet and maintain your springiness, you aren’t preparing your body for the sport as well as you could be.

Pushing yourself too far 

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the age-related component here. You likely can’t perform at the same speed at 55 as you did when you were 25. Yet many people either ignore their limits or simply don’t realize they’re pushing themselves to the max—and injuries arise. 

“When you are picking up something new when you haven’t been as active in a long time, it’s important to be measured about it,” says award-winning sports journalist Christine Yu on the mindbodygreen podcast. “That’s really hard in our society, because we just want to go out and do all the things. A lot of folks tend to be competitive, or they may have played sports when they were younger and want to recreate that feeling. But you have to respect your body right where it is.” 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

How to prevent pickleball injuries 

Keep these tips in mind before picking up the paddle

“You know, who never gets injured playing pickleball? All the adults who are in those small soccer pickup games,” Kelly explains. “There’s so much lateral movement and cutting.” 

That’s not to say you must join a competitive soccer league, but try to add more sport and play into your exercise regimen, if you can. These activities help train your body for a diverse range of movements, so your joints aren’t as surprised when they hit the pickleball court. 

Kelly also jumps rope every single day. “I am trying to maintain my springiness, so I’m loading my feet in a whole bunch of different ways,” he adds. He recommends performing 200 single jumps with your toes together and your glutes engaged. Next, do 100 jumps on your left foot and 100 jumps on your right foot before calling it a day. 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

“If we took a physical therapy view, [we’ll likely say], ‘Hey, you don’t eat enough protein. There are no micronutrients,” says Kelly. 

See, to heal and rebuild new cells and tissue you need a sufficient amount of protein. Protein is the building block of muscles, after all, and strong muscles are key to prevent injuries. Protein intake can also impact your recovery from injuries, too: One study even found that eating protein can accelerate the recovery of hip fractures2 in older adults. 

Here, find our expert guide to eating more protein, plus a protein-packed grocery list to keep on-hand. 

It’s easier said than done, but know your limits. “In my 20s, I could get away with a whole lot of stuff that I wouldn’t be able to get away with now,” notes Yu. “I need to make sure that I’m resting and recovering, because my body needs more of that time.” 

Pickleball can get competitive—that’s fine! Just don’t dive and slide for the ball like you might have done when you were younger. “It’s about recognizing how the needs of your body might shift with age and accommodating that,” Yu adds. Essentially: Give yourself grace. 


This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

The takeaway

Pickleball injuries are increasingly common, especially in adults over 50 who aren’t as resilient to joint stress. To prevent the statistic from becoming your reality, it’s important to focus on a range of movement that strengthens your agility, not just a single-direction exercise. And if it’s been a while since you’ve used those connective tissues, allow yourself some time to warm up to the game (and know when to recover). See you on the court.