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Is Pickleball Good For Seniors?

Almost 30% of the total number of pickleball players in the United States are over the age of 55. This emerging sport is rising in popularity among all age groups. One of the things that makes it so appealing is that it allows participants to continue playing much longer than many other court games.

Pickleball is perfect for seniors as it is a good combination of physical and aerobic activity. The court size is small, no expensive equipment is required, and it is easy to learn. Pickleball is a fun, competitive game that encourages activity without too much strain on joints and muscles.

Pickleball courts are springing up across the country in facilities ranging from schools to senior residence centers at the rate of around 66 new locations per month. If a pickleball court has recently appeared in your area, and you are no longer a young adult, you may wonder if it is worth trying.

Is Pickleball A Good Sport For Seniors?

Pickleball is the perfect game for baby boomers who love tennis but no longer fancy bounding across a huge tennis court. This fun game with a strange name is taking the world by storm and has become the fastest-growing sport in the United States.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 and has taken a while to catch on. Now that it has, there is no stopping it! Even people who have never played a racquet sport in their life will find pickleball easy to learn and quite addictive. It makes exercising and socializing loads more fun than walking or playing cards.

According to a report from the Medical University Of South Carolina, pickleball is pretty much the ideal activity for seniors as it combines so many beneficial attributes. Besides the obvious cardiovascular benefits that go a long way in preventing many health problems associated with old age, there are plenty of other excellent benefits, which include:

  • It encourages social interaction – the game must be played with at least one other person and can also be played as doubles.
  • It is easy to learn to play – the rules are not complicated. This makes it appealing to try since you can pick up the gist of things from watching a few games.
  • Players don’t need to be extremely physically agile – since the court is much smaller than tennis, players don’t need to be superfit and nimble.
  • It helps keep hand-eye coordination sharp. This is an important factor in keeping excellent balance which in turn helps to avoid falls as we age.
  • There isn’t a lot of running involved – Unlike tennis, where you need to cover a lot of ground, pickleball keeps players moving, but without the hectic physical strain and wear and tear on the body’s joints.
  • The light plastic ball moves slower than regular tennis or ping pong balls  – That means that you don’t need the reflexes of a cat to be able to follow the ball. It takes a few shots to get used to the slightly slower bounce of the plastic pickleball, but it is easily mastered.
  • The ball is lightweight, so it won’t cause injury if it hits you – Most of us have been caught unawares by an errand ball sometime in our lives. It can be painful, especially if you get hit in the face.
  • Unlike tennis, there is no massive overarm action required to serve. The game has a gentler underarm action but is still highly entertaining.
  • Like all forms of exercise, playing pickleball helps produce endorphins that help combat depression and elevate self-esteem. This is useful at all stages of life but particularly valuable as we age.

What Makes Pickleball Such An Attractive Sport?

The sport of pickleball is snowballing. It has recently been named the official state sport of Washington. Unlike many other sports, the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to have given pickleball a boost as people sought non-contact outside sports.

But what is it about the sport of pickleball that is so catchy? Let’s look at some reasons why it is an excellent sport for seniors and their grandchildren:

  • It crosses the age gap – Unlike tennis or squash, pickleball can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Children and seniors can play competitively with each other as there is much more to the game than physical fitness.
  • The equipment required is relatively inexpensive. As long as a public court is available, all that is needed is a paddle and a pickleball.
  • The game can be social or competitive. There are different levels of play, so competitive players can focus on the more strategic aspects of the game, while social players can have fun.
  • Pickleball has a strong social element while playing. Since the court is much smaller than a tennis court, players stand close to each other, and there can be a lot of lovely chatter and laughter throughout the game.
  • New players can try out the game from their first introduction. Experience with any other racquet sport is easily transferrable to pickleball.
  • Pickleball doesn’t require as much space as tennis or badminton. You can fit three pickleball courts onto a tennis court so more people can use designated areas simultaneously. This makes it an attractive option when planning parks and recreation areas.
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Can Seniors Get Injured Playing Pickleball?

No physical sport is without risk, and pickleball is no exception. It is less likely to cause severe injuries than many other racquet sports, and most health care professionals are fully behind seniors getting involved in the sport.

Pickleball offers an excellent cardio workout, along with loads of socializing. As the game continues to grow in popularity, the number of associated injuries is also on the ride. Since seniors make up a large percentage of regular pickleball players, it stands to reason that they also feature in injury statistics.

An article in the New York Post highlighted that pickleball has become something of an obsession for some seniors. Some seniors devote several hours a day to enjoying the game, which naturally results in fatigue injuries, like tendonitis, arthritis, and sprains.

Of course, with all the twisting, turning, and stretching to make shots, there are plenty of other common pickleball-related injuries.

What Are The Most Common Pickleball Injuries?

Pickleball injuries are often caused by sharp movements or falls while moving quickly to get to the ball. It is easy to get over-enthusiastic in the game, forget your fitness level, and find later that the sharp pivoting and turning action may have required a little more warming up!

By far, the most common injuries experienced by pickleball players are sprains and fractures. Fortunately, sprains are much more common than fractures, although wrist fractures are not uncommon, mainly due to falls after stretching to make a shot.

Other common pickleball injuries include:

  • Pickleball elbow – This is the pickleball equivalent to tennis elbow. The condition is the result of a repeated swinging action.
  • Shoulder injuries – These are usually muscular injuries involving the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
  • Achilles tendon injuries – This is a painful condition and can be caused by any high-impact activity which results in stress on the lower leg. Wearing the correct supportive footwear while playing can help prevent Achilles injuries.
  • Knee injuries – The jerky stop, start action, and frequent pivoting can take their toll on knee joints. Warming up properly before getting onto the court is beneficial in keeping knee injuries at bay.
  • Concussion – Head injury can result from falls or being accidentally struck with a pickleball paddle – believe it or not, some players have even managed to wack themselves during the excitement of a game!

How To Encourage A Senior Player To Start Playing Pickleball

We have some great tips for you if you have elderly parents or a senior neighbor who need some gentle encouragement to get onto a pickleball court. Seniors unfamiliar with the sport may be skeptical at first if you just try to explain it to them and may imagine that it’s tricky and requires a lot of skill.

The best, most non-threatening way to get anyone involved in pickleball is to take them to a local court for a few fun hits. Ensure that they are wearing suitable tennis or court shoes, and before you know it, they will be hooked.

So now that you have your senior players out on the court, you may want to get them their own kit so they can enjoy playing more regularly. Here is a handy list of essential must-haves and a few great extras that will make pickleball fun and comfortable for senior players.

  • Pickleball Paddles – Most new pickleball players are introduced to the sport by someone else, so investing in a pickleball set rather than individual items is worthwhile. That way, even when friends come over, all the equipment will be available for a game.

Check out our recommendation on Amazon below.

Pickleball paddles can be made from various materials, including plastic, aluminum, or fiberglass. When starting out, there is no need to invest in an expensive set as the focus will be on fun rather than performance.

  • Pickleballs – Most pickleball paddle sets come with a few balls, but you can never have too many lightweight pickleballs. Unlike table tennis or regular tennis, you can choose any color pickleball you like, although you will most commonly see them in shades of neon yellow and bright orange.

Check out our recommendation on Amazon below.

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  • Eye protection – Although a pickleball is very light, it is also important to protect your eyes from flying dust and debris when playing outside. You also need sports glasses that won’t fog up and are comfortable enough to wear during play.

Check out our recommendation on Amazon below.

  • Supportive court shoes – One of the most essential pieces of equipment for playing pickleball safely is your shoes. They should provide non-skid support while supporting the player’s foot. Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors, so shoes must be suitable for wet or dry courts.

Check out our recommendation on Amazon below.

  • Sun visor hat – Complete your senior’s pickleball ensemble with a cute pickleball sun visor hat. An adjustable visor cap helps keep hair out of players’ faces and the sun out of their eyes.

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  • Ball Retriever – Repeatedly bending down to pick up balls from the ground can take its toll even on players, regardless of age. We absolutely LOVE this nifty super suction cup that allows players to use the handle of their paddles to pick up balls. This is a great device, especially for senior players, that will make the game a lot more enjoyable.

Check out our recommendation on Amazon below.

Why Do Older People Love Pickleball So Much?

The 2022 Sports and Fitness Industry report indicated that 52% of core players are aged 55 years or older. That is a massive uptake in a sport that barely anyone had heard of only a few years ago.

So why is pickleball so popular with seniors, and is this a trend that is set to continue? Experts agree that pickleball is one of the best things that has happened in senior health, and some have gone as far as viewing pickleball as a public health tool that has physical and social benefits.

Five Reasons That Pickleball Is Great For Seniors:

  • It is low impact and still exciting – The smaller court and lower net make the game less physically demanding than tennis, but without sucking out all the fun and competitive aspect.
  • It provides an excellent, age-appropriate workout – Regular practice improves balance, and hand-eye coordination, burns calories, and reduces hypertension and cardiovascular issues.
  • It’s a great way to socialize – Pickleball isn’t only about playing the game. There is plenty of off-court socializing, and a notable point is that the sport frequently includes players of different age groups. Courts have appeared and continue to spread in popular community hangouts like YMCA and community centers, which attracts people of all ages. It is genuinely heartwarming to find a sport that has such intergenerational appeal.
  • It is a sport that seniors can continue to improve at – Many senior activities like yoga or walking are great, but they don’t offer any particular levels of mastery to strive towards. Pickleball can be played at levels ranging from beginner to expert, and with more practice, players can progress through the ranks at their local club.
  • It requires mental sharpness – Pickleball isn’t just about hitting the ball. There is an element of crafty strategy involved in placing winning shots. So, in addition to the physical workout, your mind needs to stay alert.

Conclusion

Pickleball is an excellent sport for seniors as it combines low-impact aerobic activity with a competitive, fun element. It is an easy-to-learn, friendly game that is far more accessible than most regular racquet sports. Although there is a risk of injury from playing pickleball, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

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