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  • Writer's pictureSerendipityPTW

Pickleball and Knee Health Part 2


Alright! It’s finally time to continue last week’s talk about keeping your knees healthy during pickleball.


If you missed the first part of the topic, you can find it right here: https://www.serendipityptw.com/post/pickleball-and-knee-health-part-1


Moving right along, let’s get into tip #4:


Keep a Strong Hip


I have found that there’s one specific hip muscle that tends to be weak for pickleball players that has a huge impact on knee pain and function. It’s called the gluteus medius, and is one of the many muscles of your buttock.


For pickleball play, this muscle provides a lot of vital functions. It helps to bring the leg out to the side, which is critical for proper player positioning. It also plays a key role in allowing players to squat and lunge properly and effectively. That’s all very well and good, but how does it impact the knee? Even though it’s located in the hip, this muscle is actually responsible for providing the knee with a lot of its control. People with a weak gluteus medius may report that their knee has issues with stability, or gets tired and ‘shaky’ easily. Positionally, they’re more likely to lunge using muscles that put more stress on the knee, and may go ‘knock-kneed’ at times (which the player themself may not even notice).


Refining Your Play Makes a Big Difference


It’s a wonderful thing that learning how to play better also involves learning a lot of the strategies that will keep your knees healthier and less painful while on the courts. New players often utilize a lot of maneuvers that result in ineffective plays and increased stress placed upon structures such as the kneecap.


For example, you’ll find that newer players are a lot more likely to cross their legs over when they should be smoothly sidestepping.


They’re more likely to be kept back at the baseline, resulting in more running around the court when they should be prioritizing creating a ‘defensive wall’ up at the kitchen line.


Less experienced players are also more inclined to find themselves in ‘awkward’ positions, such as transitioning onto one leg when trying to get a difficult shot, overreaching, and twisting or pivoting to return a ball that has already gone past their body. These are just a few examples, but in a big way, the mission to become a better player goes hand in hand with minimizing the likelihood of having pickleball related knee issues.


The trick here is that a lot of the time, players don’t realize that they’re doing these things! In the heat of the moment during a game, a lot of people don’t think about how they move - unless you’re actively focusing on it, you’ll likely just do whatever feels the most effective and natural. In a game that’s so much about positioning and strategy, the most instinctive move isn’t always the best or most knee-healthy one.


Do a Proper Warm-Up I feel like I make a comment on this on most of the topics that I write, but that’s only because it’s so, so important. I can’t really understate the importance of doing an effective warm-up, especially if you’re someone who already has aches, pains, or other issues.


Our bodies are incredibly efficient. When we’re at rest, our body doesn’t dedicate an excess of blood to our muscles. Instead, our body is dedicating its energy to other processes such as digesting food.


In order to perform well when we transition to being active, our body needs to redirect things so that more blood (and therefore, more oxygen) is dedicated to working muscle. If you’ve ever gone out on the courts without warming up and felt sluggish during the game, this is likely the reason why.


In layman’s terms, it would also be accurate to say that movement helps to lubricate our joints. Minor aches and pains from issues such as arthritis should begin to decrease during an effective warm-up.


However, do you know what ISN’T an effective warm-up for your knees?


Dinking the ball…


Back…


And forth…


And back…


And forth…


Directly in front of your body. Without moving. Repeatedly.


Don’t get me wrong, dinking CAN make for a very effective warm-up! But (and I will shout this from the rooftops if I have to) you need to move!!! Nobody plays a game like this, and it doesn’t do much of a thing for you. Despite this, I see so many people warm-up like this every single day.


If you want dinking to be a good warm-up, tell your warm-up partner that you want them to try to push you out of position. Get some side-to-side stepping in there. Bend those knees. You’ll do even better if you throw a couple of midcourt and baseline drop shots in there. Give and receive some drives. You should feel like you’re using all of the parts of your body that you’re relying on during a full-fledged game.


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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 shoulder pain or tightness, to helping with injury prevention and good technique.

If you’re new, 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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