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Pickleball: Common Physical Mistakes Made by Beginners and Intermediate Players


Pickleball truly is a sport that’s easy to pick up but challenging to master. There are many common pitfalls that newer players fall into, which can both hinder progress and increase the likelihood of sustaining an injury out on the courts. Today I want to go over some of the most common physical mistakes that new players make. Just to be clear, I’m focusing on the movement aspects that are more likely to cause an injury, so just bear in mind that my list is going to be a little different from what you’d see if it was written by a coach or instructor!

1. Not Warming Up Pickleball players are rather notorious for hopping out of their car and right into the first available game. Did you know that our body actually changes its distribution of blood flow when you go from resting to being physically active? When we’re at rest, our bodies dedicate more blood flow to things such as tissue healing and digestion. Once we ramp up our activity level, our bodies devote more blood flow to working muscle. This process doesn’t happen instantaneously, and is partly responsible for the slow and sluggish feeling that ‘cold’ players have when beginning to play for the day.


Muscles and other bodily tissues are more likely to be injured when they haven’t had the opportunity to be properly primed to play, so a good warm up is ideal for your game and your body. 2. Too Much Twisting Many new players twist their bodies in order to retrieve tough shots, as opposed to moving their feet. They’ll lean to the right or left, overreaching to get the ball.


This kind of movement is more likely to throw a player off balance, and can make a player more likely to run into low back problems such as muscle spasms, sciatica, or disc issues.


Additionally, twisting and overreaching to get the ball is going to slow down the player’s reaction time and will more likely put them out of position for the next shot they have to make. Effective play should involve a major focus on footwork. Players should always prioritize moving their feet to position themselves so that they can be directly in front of the ball prior to making a return.


3. Bad Methods for Getting Lobs


Many new players try to get lob shots by backing up for the ball. It may seem intuitive, but when players backpedal to try to get an overhead, they’re shifting all of their weight backwards and are more likely to fall.


Falls can have all sorts of nasty consequences on the pickleball courts, especially since there’s usually momentum involved. Wrist fractures and head injuries are two of the most common consequences of hard falls out on the courts. Actually turning around to go back for the ball is more likely to help you get to a lob quickly, and puts you in a better position to make a successful return.


4. Not Bending the Knees! Pickleball has gained something of a reputation for being a less physically intense sport, which is a belief that I find can be detrimental to players! While a player may not be running as much as they would in a sport such as tennis, pickleball still creates a lot of physical demand, and players do need to be able to do things such as bend their knees in order to play well and minimize the likelihood of an injury.


There are a lot of reasons players may not bend their knees, but bad habits, leg weakness, and players trying to avoid having issues with old knee problems are a few of the most common.


The problem here is that when you don’t bend your knees, some other part of the body has to pick up the extra work - in most cases, players who don’t bend through their knees will bend through their spines to retrieve low shots.


Similar to overreaching, this can set players up to run into low back problems at some point. Additionally, bending through the back can make it hard to get your paddle ready to make an effective return, and will likely result in you being out of position on the courts with a slower reaction time.


And there you have it, four major physical issues I find that many beginner players tend to run into. For physical problems, such as difficulty bending your knees, I’m happy to help you with whatever your needs are.


For actual coaching and pickleball strategy, if you’re in Naples I’d recommend seeking out the help of someone such as Pat Shea or Christy Eibel at the Naples Pickleball Center. Both are very patient instructors, and are quite well versed in guiding beginners on the best methods of playing the game!


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As the owner of Serendipity Physical Therapy and Wellness, I’m an avid pickleball addict in Naples, Florida, 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, weakness, or tightness, to helping with injury prevention, proper conditioning, 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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