This question was asked by a new ambassador at a captains’ meeting in Palm Desert recently. Thirteen captains put on their thinking caps to come up with answers. Swinging incorrectly, not bending from the knees only the waist, running forward, running backward, coming to the game with body issues already in place, were some of the answers. Yes, all those things are some of the reasons pickleball players get injured, but let’s look behind the game. If a person hasn’t played a sport in years, if they have been a couch potato or tomato, if they haven’t exercised since their hair was its original color, they are an accident waiting to happen even if they choose gardening. “Use it or lose it” is an important mantra after 50. You oil your car every 3000 miles or so, change the filters, cables and tires regularly, but what do you do for your body in preparation for pickleball? How about nothing?
When you decide to play pickleball you need to decide how much stretching and strength training is needed to protect yourself from injuries. You need to work out before you get on the court and stretch after the day’s play. Pickleball, like gardening, causes stress on the muscles and joints. If you don’t want injuries, then do some of the exercises in my articles or invent your own; just do something. Oh yes, have a good pickleball teacher show you how to play the game correctly.
If you are playing in a group and the group plays two hours straight without a break, should they stretch or stop play briefly to rest? I am a proponent of stretching and if it’s necessary to do it between games, do it even if no one else wants to. Playing two straight hours is a lot of pickleball for the average player. Think about taking a break after one hour. If you don’t want to stiffen up just stand up during the break.
Ed. Note: Fitness guru Barbara Wintroub is the author of Fighting Gravity.