Playing Pickleball?

According to one physical therapist, “Many pickleball players I have encountered already have a knee problem or have had a knee replacement.”  So, should aging tennis players take up the sport?

A Different Game

Admission: I have never been on a pickleball court.  But that hard court and the type of game that it is, looks like it would lend itself to injuries for senior knees and backs.

It is played on a hard court and 90% of the game is tight to the net, bending over and reaching into “the kitchen” (that space right up to the net that you cannot stay in).

I have only anecdotal information on players finding the game to be tougher on the body than soft court tennis.

Any first hand experience?

If not pickleball, then what?  It would be very challenging to the male ego; but I bet aging tennis players who are dramatically slowing down would enjoy playing regular tennis – but with one of the softer “starter balls.”  There would be many more rallies and satisfaction.

Opinions?

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11 thoughts on “Playing Pickleball?

  1. I started playing PADEL TENNIS a few yrs ago after trying it out at a demo court at the French Open in 2015. They set up a court and allowed folks to test – i was totally hooked………..played often on a softer synthetic clay type court. Here in Houston we have two main facilities (one near The Woodlands with 5 courts and at the Houstonian Hotel/spa). Padel HUGE in Spain and Argentina but seems to be expanding fast in France (Henri Leconte is building facilities in Europe and the Middle East / North Africa).

    Much less stress than pickleball due to the court and that Padel has clear walls (similar to squash). I did find the hard court in pickleball hard on the lower body.

    Michel, thanks for the other option. george

  2. George,
    I have many friends who play pickleball, and many have had injuries, some
    very badly. I thought with my bad knees and shoulder, I could pay that “easier” game, but after seeing so many injuries, I won’t try it.

    Elaine, sounds like the smart thing to do (or NOT to do). george

  3. Hi George, go with the ” then what “. As a Maters Tennis Ambassador,USTA, here in Florida; go with Masters Tennis to start. It’s designed especially for those over 55 but holds true for anyone looking to get back in the game regardless of age or physical problems. Played on a 60×27 court, lower compression ball, orange and yellow, along with recommended lighter racket sizes ( 27,25,23 ). Visually impaired; no problem. Same court, racket sizes but use sound emitting balls. Those who want to stay with a paddle like racket; it’s called POP tennis–same court,same orange ball. If we have them here in Rotonda West on Cape Haze others should.

    Another good couple of options! thanks, george

  4. Hi George, I played tennis for 40 years and recently switched to Picklball due to a stroke. I have seen more injuries in one year of pickle ball than 40 years of tennis. One reason is that people who are not athletic are trying to get into the game. The other reason is the hard surface. I had to again wear my knee brace as I did playing tennis on hard courts up North, but not required on hard tru. In addition many of the strokes are very low, due to the lack of bounce in the ball. So it is tough on your back. My recommendation is avoid the sport if you have severe knee or back problems.

    Robert, that is what i have been hearing; so thanks for your first hand report! george

  5. I have played Pickle Ball several times, and it’s fun. It’s something that a tennis player can take up and become proficient very quickly. The main thing is remembering to let the return of serve bounce before you hit it. Anyway, as you mention it is played on a hard court and it DOES have an effect on your knees. Partly because of the hard courts, and partly because the nature of Pickle Ball is that the games are short and it’s usually more social than competitive. Pickle Ball is not particularly tiring so you can play longer and that means just that much more stress on the knees. I think that Pickle Ball is fine for some people that want to stay active and social, but that it is NOT a good substitute for a competitive tennis player that decides he just can’t play competitive tennis any longer. Just my 2 cents, though.

    That said, if you get the chance to play, give it a try. Your tennis skill transfer over well and it’s fun.

    Terry, thanks for your input. george

  6. George:

    If you have hit on the walls at the pelican bay public park, technically you have been on a pickle ball court, since there are now two courts (the blue lines) laid out in parallel with the hitting walls, one on the North side and one on the South side.

    Thanks for implying that pickle ball may be a risky activity for the back and knees. Anything to slow the rate of growth is a good thing. :-). I am not happy sharing our hitting walls with pickle ball players. Until this year, I could almost always find an open wall. Not so much anymore. 🙁

  7. George;
    Be careful. I took up pickle ball about a year a half ago just because some friends were playing it and it looked like fun; and it is. I have two knee replacements but can run around a soft tennis court with no problems. However, I did hurt my knee playing pickle ball after playing it a number of times, resulting in no tennis for 6 weeks or so (not fun). It can be a fun game and easy to pick up but it is risky for older ankles, knees, hips, etc. Quick, and low stops and starts as well as going back for lobs occasionally on a hard surface in a competitive situation has resulted in a number many injuries for pickle ball players. I have heard that, although pickle ball is the fastest growing sport in America, that orthopedic people say that it also give them the most new patients. I enjoyed it but am now sticking to golf and tennis.

    Jim, thanks for your caution! See you up north this summer. George

  8. George, An option is Bocce, a fun game and nobody gets injured. Most communities
    have Bocce courts which are clay courts. A lot of former tennis players are now devoted Bocce players.
    Anthony Rasile

    Anthony, great social activity; but not much cardio! thanks, george

  9. A year ago January when El Nino rains eliminated tennis for a month I started playing at a low-level single court indoor facility and I liked it. Then I started going to a competitive group that has 11 pickleball courts setup in a three tennis court enclosure. On the weekend there can be 50 people playing. My regular tennis group dropped from twice a week to once a week because of golf commitments, managing house building project, etc. I was playing pickleball three times a week. In August, playing pickleball I went for an overhead, went down backwards and broke my left wrist. That kept me out of tennis for three months because of a two-handed backhand, but I was again playing pickleball within a month.

    Hard surface isn’t a consideration since that’s all we have here in Northern California. I can no longer run worth a damn and that doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does in tennis. Using a Fitbit to measure steps playing tennis over a half hour period I averaged 43 per minute vs. 80 pm during PB. The PB steps are shorter which helps my ailing knees. I estimate one hits the PB ball about 6 times as frequently as one would hit a tennis ball during a half hour period of play.

    The etiquette here is strictly drop-in and challenge. Put a pair of paddles by the net post and you then play the winners. People are pretty good at picking courts with comparable level players. I often come early and help with setting up the nets. It’s very convenient to be able to just drop-in anytime between 8 and 4. During non-tournament time, one PB court is setup with deck chairs to sit and chat between playing. Food is often brought, such as pots of chili, cakes or donuts. Since women play as well as men, there ends up being a bigger pool of potential partners. Barbara Jordan, Aussie winner in singles and French winner in mixed was one of the participants at the our last tournament.

    Bob, good to hear from you and that PB is ok for you! george

  10. George,
    I was the USTA FL Masters Tennis Coordinator for 3 years and have commented before as well as sent a link to the program.(www.masterstennis.com) I am now an independant tennis consultant and educate on innovative tennis products and formats.

    I know USTA national’s answer to this is Pop Tennis (www.poptennis.com), however it is a paddle you must swing with a swift force to allow the ball to reach across the net. I don’t believe Tennis players will like it much but perhaps Picklers may. It can be played on clay, on 60 foot or even 36 foot courts, which can be lined with a brush or sprayed on with water soluble paint that brushes right off after playing.
    You get a softer Foundation under your feet which means more give to the body, and the paddle is about the same size as a Pickleball paddle. The balls used are orange or green dot modified tennis balls. It doesn’t feel the same as a racquet, more like a heavier pickle paddle.

    I would say it’s wonderful to have these choices. Perhaps your readers would like to try them both ( Masters Tennis and Pop Tennis)and reply with their comments? I would love to read them.

    Christine, good to hear from you. Yes, choices are good. thanks, george

  11. Very interesting reading! I have been suggesting Green dot tennis for sometime now. I have using the green dot balls in clinics and the players love the length of the rallies. Fun option if you are slowing down or just beginning your tennis but wish to use the same equipment and a clay court.

    Chuck, I think the softer balls are a great choice. Thanks. George

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