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Do Your Knees Click During Pickleball? Here's Why



Have you ever noticed that one or both of your knees will sometimes click during a pickleball game?


This is a very common phenomenon that leaves many players wondering if they have a knee problem. Some people’s knees rarely click, while other folks have knees that click consistently and repeatedly with certain movements.


What does it mean, and is it a problem?


As with just about everything else related to the human body…it depends!


For pickleball players, most will notice that knee clicking occurs when changing stance positions. The small squat a player assumes at the kitchen line, lunging positions, and kneeling down to pick up a ball are the most common times that players will notice the click.

Reason number one for knee clicking (and likely the most common) is fortunately a completely harmless one. If you’ve ever cracked your knuckles, that click is caused by the movement of air bubbles in the fluid that is naturally found between each of our joints. As a player maneuvers around the court, they’re generating a ton of knee joint motion, which can produce clicking for the exact same reason.

Soft tissues (mainly muscles and tendons) sliding over bony surfaces as we move around can also produce clicking. Though this phenomenon sounds a bit unpleasant, it’s also typically completely harmless. No two people are built the same, so some players are more likely to experience clicking for this reason than others.

Clicking may also occur as a byproduct of limited knee control or weakness in some muscle or group or muscles; as long as the clicking is painless, this is also most often harmless. However, it’s better to have something such as this addressed sooner than later, as it could contribute to issues at some point in the future. Especially for a sport that requires a lot of repetitive movements such as pickleball, weakness or tightness in key areas such as the knee can predispose someone to future injuries.

Another major cause of knee clicking is a meniscus tear, though the good news is that if your only concern is clicking, this probably isn’t your main culprit. While a meniscal tear certainly does often involve a clicking or popping knee, it’s also usually accompanied by other, more pressing symptoms.

A meniscal tear is usually going to be a traumatic injury, which means that you typically know exactly what happened as opposed to the symptom just ‘sneaking up’ on you with no obvious cause. You’re also going to likely experience issues with swelling, pain, locking, and/or a noticeable loss of motion in the knee.

It’s worth mentioning here that meniscus tears most often occur as a ‘plant and twist’ injury. Think of someone doing a hard pivot or making a sharp turn. It’s not a movement that should really be happening much at all in pickleball, but I have seen players make such movements out on the courts before due to poor habits. The value of drilling and practicing proper movement patterns cannot be overstated when it comes to preventing injuries and improving quality of play!

The good news is that even if you do ever experience a meniscus tear on or off the courts, people most often do quite well with physical therapy and are able to get back to their daily lives with minimal to no knee issues. If you get on a good recovery plan, surgery usually isn’t needed.

So there you have it; these are a few of the common causes of knee clicking and popping, and what they may imply. Though many of the causes are harmless in nature, some are definitely worth paying attention to. If you experience any of these symptoms and have concerns about whether or not your clicking may be problematic, it’s best to have it checked out.

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As the owner of Serendipity Physical Therapy and Wellness, I’m an avid pickleball addict with a goal of keeping pickleball players moving at their best and injury free. I work with players for anything ranging from reducing pain or tightness, to helping with injury prevention and good technique.

If you’re new here, you can check out more of my advice and content here: https://www.serendipityptw.com/blog.

If there is anything I can help you with or you have questions, please give me a call at (239) 232-8155, or send me an email at Contact@SerendipityPTW.com. I would love to see how I can help get you moving at your best!


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