By Dr. David Bokermann, PT, DPT, C-PS
Over the past 6 weeks, I have become addicted to pickleball. My wife and co-workers can definitely attest that my thoughts, attention and conversations have been geared around my new hobby. My only connection to pickleball was in high school gym class. I remember liking it but didn’t hear anything about it until about 6 months ago. Some of my patients were telling me that they started to play and I became curious. I was playing ping pong with my wife a lot over winter break and I started to see more pickleball videos plastered over social media. I bought a racket, took a week long class and am now taking private lessons. I am excited to take you along this journey with me, but first we must talk about what pickleball is and why it is such a great sport for so many people of different ages and abilities.
Pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport for the 3rd year in a row. More and more people are starting to play, stores are starting to carry the equipment, and athletes and celebrities alike are sharing their love for the easy to pick up sport. This blog will be the first of several blogs that will dive into the basics of pickleball, my personal pickleball journey and ways to maximize performance and injury prevention in a new sport.
Pickleball is a rapidly growing sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. It is played on a court with a net, a wiffle ball, 2 hard plastic paddles used to hit the ball over the net. It is played both indoor and outdoor and requires little space and time to set up and get playing. Pickleball is a fun, low-impact sport that offers a range of physical and mental benefits for players of all ages and abilities.
Let’s explore some of the many Benefits of Playing Pickleball.
1. Low threshold for entry. Part of pickleball’s rapid rise in popularity is that almost anyone can jump in a game and play. All you need is a racquet and a general understanding of the rules. As an example- when I was playing at open play at a local recreation center, one of the best players brought his old college buddy to come out and play. He had never played before but he and I played in a competitive game against 2 veterans of the sport. Best advice- get on out there and just try it.
2. Pickleball is great for agility and flexibility. Players have to move forward and back, side to side, cross 1 leg over or behind the other, turn backwards and rush forward under control. As a physical therapist, I love the sport for all populations as the ball is not traveling incredibly fast but you still have to move your body to get where you want to be. It is a fun way to improve your balance.
3. Improves heart health and cardiovascular stamina. Singles pickleball is more intense than doubles pickleball in terms of fatigability, but both can provide positive effects. Pickleball improves heart health through increasing your heart rate above a resting state. Frequent participation in moderate intensity activity has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack, strokes and even lower cholesterol.
4. Promotes socialization and positive mental well-being. I can attest to this aspect of the game. Honestly my best work days are when I play pickleball before my day or over lunch. Pickleball is a social sport especially in recreation leagues and in open play games. When you go to play, you put your racquets in a waiting line, then the first 2 or 4 racquets get pulled and you have to talk amongst each other to figure out who will play together. This requires you to get to know other people and develop friendly conversations between teammates and opponents.
5. Lowers stress and anxiety levels. Exercise and community participation is very healthy for our bodies and our minds. Exercise helps to release endorphins which make us feel good. Being a part of a community helps to create a stronger identity and lowers feelings of anxiety or loneliness.
I could continue to go on and on with other talking points that demonstrate rewards one receives from pickleball. I will end this blog by saying: if you are at all curious about playing, take a beginner class at your local recreation center, YMCA, or local tennis club. If you currently play pickleball, post a comment about what you like best about the sport. If you are looking to get started, leave a comment and I may be able to assist you in where to start the process.
Dr. David Bokermann