Pickleball: What It Is, Health Benefits, and Getting Started
Pickleball is beginner-friendly — even if you have no experience with racket or paddle sports. “I can take someone who has never played a racket sport, and within one and a half to two hours they can be playing their first game,” says Medina. There’s a lower learning curve, compared with other similar racket sports, because the court is small compared to a tennis court (it’s the size of a badminton court), so there’s less ground to cover, the handle on your paddle is short, making the ball easier to hit, and the ball is similar to a plastic Wiffle ball, so it moves slower than a tennis ball or racquetball, Medina explains.
Ready to get into pickleball? Here’s what you need to know before you go:
Find a Pickleball Club or Group
You can look at the schedule at your local community center or rec center, or type your location information into USA Pickleball’s Places 2 Play tool. Because of the social, inclusive nature of the sport, you can easily join a group and meet new people in the process, says Medina.
Wear Appropriate Footwear
Greiner recommends court shoes or cross-trainers, which are designed for the lateral movements you’ll make on the court. (Running shoes are designed for forward movements.)
Wear Comfortable Clothing That You Can Move In
Tennis-like outfits (sports dresses and skirts, shorts and tanks, or athletic pants or shirts) will work, though Yarbrough says she has also seen people wear jeans for a light, social game.
Consider Purchasing a Paddle
Many rec centers will have paddles on hand to use, but if you’d like to have your own, you can purchase a pickleball paddle set (two paddles) for around $40 from major sports gear suppliers.
Protect Your Eyes
Medina recommends wearing eye protection to shield your eyes from any wayward balls. Go for racquetball goggles, available from major sports gear suppliers for about $10 to $40.
Talk to Your Doctor First, if You Have a Health Condition
If you have an underlying health condition, such as a heart condition, arthritis, back problems, or any other illness, injury, or issue that may interfere with your ability to safely exercise, talk to your doctor before starting pickleball.
Underlying health issues do not necessarily mean you shouldn’t play pickleball, Greiner says, but you will want to be clear on any precautions you need to take. “There are very few conditions where you can’t play pickleball,” he says.
Warm Up Before You Play
Warming up the body for exercise is important for all workouts. A short, brisk walk or light jogging and gentle back-and-forth vollying with a pickleball partner can help your body prepare for the activity ahead, Greiner explains. Also, do a few dynamic stretches, such as marching with your knees up, and follow up the pickleball game with static stretching (such as reaching for your toes, holding your knees to your chest, or holding your heel to your butt for a quad stretch), advises Medina.
Like any other sport, it’s recommended that you slowly build up your activity, in order to avoid injury, says Greiner. For instance, start with 60 minutes of casual play, rather than a weekend tournament.
Avoid These Common Pickleball Injuries
Lower leg muscle strains (such as in quads and calves) as well as back strains from trunk rotation during play are common pickleball injuries, Greiner notes. Also, be aware that it’s possible to stumble and fall while running on the court or turning to pivot, which can cause ankle or knee sprains, as well as knee tendon or ligament injuries.
Mild strains can be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), as well as pain-relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If an injury persists, is accompanied by swelling, or alters your regular movements, get checked out by a doctor.