Pickleball is a fun sport that provides many great benefits. However, as with any sport, there are things you should do to make sure you stay safe while you’re on the court.
Items to Bring on the Court for Pickleball Safety
Proper Shoes for Pickleball
First and foremost, wearing the proper shoes is very important. Having the right pair of pickleball shoes can very well minimize your chance of serious injury. You will want to wear shoes that support lateral movement, such as tennis shoes. Leave your walking and running shoes at home as they will hinder your movement on the court and can actually be dangerous if worn when playing.
When shopping for a shoe, consider what type of surface you will play on most often.
If playing outdoors — or indoors on a tennis court or similar hard, gritty surface — tennis shoes are the best option. Tennis shoes provide the necessary support for quick lateral and forward-and-backward movements and they hold up best to the wear-and-tear of rough court surfaces.
If playing indoors on a wood/composite gym floor — like at a local, recreation center — court, volleyball, or tennis shoes — are great options. Mizuno and ASICS are two brands that both have some good “volleyball” (gum rubber) options in their shoe line-up that can be worn for pickleball.
A general rule-of-thumb is that pickleball shoes should be replaced after approximately 60 hours of play — or 3 to 4 months, depending on how often you play. You always want to make sure you have enough grip on the soles of your shoe.
Since sports-related eye injuries (not just in pickleball) result in more than 30,000 emergency room visits annually, it is important to wear proper eye protection.
You should protect your eyes from an errant pickleball. Proper eye protection should be able to withstand the force of a pickleball without shattering its lenses. It should also protect your eyes from UV rays.
Additionally, proper eyewear can also help from a performance-enhancing perspective. It can take the glare off the ball. Your glasses should make seeing the court on a bright sunny day less difficult.
It never fails, during a long tournament, or when a player from a northern state visits Florida and plays pickleball on their first day, they get overheated and feel like they are going to pass out.
It is very important to stay hydrated when playing on the court. Be sure to drink plenty of water and bring extra water with you to the court.
It’s also a good idea to have electrolytes on hand in case you need them. The hot temperatures and humidity can cause a toll when you’re on the court for countless hours. Be prepared with water and electrolytes so you can be at your best when playing.
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You can’t beat the joy of playing pickleball outside on a nice sunny day. However, make sure you protect yourself from too much exposure to the sun. A little sun can be good giving you essential Vitamin D, but too much sun, especially during the wrong time of day, can be harmful.
There are many ways you can protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Be sure to wear a safe sunscreen and keep some handy in your pickleball bag so you can reapply it if you are on the courts for an excessive amount of time.
In addition to sunscreen, you can wear a hat and/or a UV-blocking shirt.
While you’re not on the court, be sure to stay in the shade.
Charged Cell Phone
Before heading to the courts, be sure to fully charge your cell phone. In the unfortunate case that there is an emergency or incident on the court, you will need to be able to call for help. It is also a good idea to have a contact in your phone labeled ICE (in case of emergency). That way someone else will be able to reach your emergency contact if needed.
Heed These Pickleball Safety Tips While on the Court
Don’t Back Up
It never fails, someone will try to lob a pickleball over your head when you’re positioned near the non-volley line. This can be pretty dangerous if you don’t go after the ball properly.
Do not back peddle or run backward to go for the ball. I repeat – DO NOT RUN BACKWARDS. Make sure you turn your body and chase down the ball while running forward. Unfortunately, I have heard of too many players who have been injured trying to back peddle. They get tripped up, or the new grip on their shoe causes them to fall.
Keep Off a Wet Court
Ugh! You are in the middle of playing a pickleball game and the clouds start rolling in, then it begins to sprinkle. Although tempting, you and your opponents should make the decision to stop play. A wet court and even a semi-wet court can be slippery and dangerous. You don’t want to risk playing on a wet court. It could set you back for a while.
If you want to play after it stops raining, be sure to totally wipe off of the court. Some clubs have squeegees or towels you can use. I have also seen blowers used to fully dry off a court.
Know Your Surroundings
Each pickleball court has its own obstacles. When you arrive at a court, be sure to look around to see if there are any items near the court that you will want to avoid when playing. Some courts have fencing or other barriers between the court. Some courts may have light posts or other posts nearby. Other courts may have benches along the side of the court.
If you’re playing on a gym floor on an indoor court, there may be bleachers or storage containers near the court. More than likely, you will also be playing near a solid wall.
Believe me, you don’t want to be running after a ball at full speed and crash into an obstacle that will stop you in your tracks and do some damage.
Look Where You’re Walking
Due to their size, most pickleball courts are stacked right next to each other. Sometimes there is a fence between them and other times there is not. Either way, do not walk across an active court. Be sure to wait until after the play has stopped and walk behind the players to get to your court.
This is not only part of pickleball etiquette, but it is also for your and the other player’s safety.
Yell, “Ball on Court”
As mentioned above, pickleball courts are typically stacked right next to each other. That makes for the possibility of balls landing in your neighbors’ court. If you see a pickleball fly onto another court, be sure to yell “ball” to warn the players. They should stop play and repeat the point.
This is not only part of pickleball etiquette, but it is also for safety. You don’t want someone accidentally spraining an ankle on the errant ball.
Communicate with Your Partner
Playing doubles in pickleball requires communication with your partner. You need to be conscious of where your partner is on the court. You don’t want to accidentally run into them or go after the same shot and accidentally hit them with your paddle.
Know How to Use an AED
Does your pickleball club have an AED on-site? An automated external defibrillator (AED) is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Although it’s easy to use, it is good to learn how to use it. Hopefully, you will never have to use it, but it’s definitely something that is good to have nearby.
Finally, consider taking pickleball lessons or attending a pickleball clinic. Working with a professional can help you create proper techniques which may help you avoid injuries on the court. Maintaining proper grip and swinging the paddle correctly can help limit strain on your wrist, shoulder, or elbow. Also, learning where to position yourself on the court can help to limit the amount of sprinting you do which can avoid a needless sprain or fall.
Being mindful before playing pickleball and when you are on the court can make your playing experience less dangerous and much more fun. Please keep these pickleball safety tips in mind the next time you play.
See you on the court!