Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky
975 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028

Pickleball Wrist Pain

Pickleball is a dynamic and fast-paced sport enjoyed by players of all ages. However, the repetitive nature of swinging the paddle and hitting the ball can lead to wrist injuries, causing pain and discomfort for players. As a hand and wrist surgeon with extensive experience in treating sports-related injuries, I’ve encountered many pickleball players seeking relief from wrist pain. In this article, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pickleball wrist pain to help players understand and manage this common issue effectively.

Understanding Pickleball Wrist Pain

Pickleball wrist pain typically stems from overuse or trauma to the wrist joint and surrounding structures. The wrist is a complex joint comprising multiple bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves that work together to provide stability and mobility. During pickleball gameplay, repetitive swinging motions and impacts can strain these structures, leading to inflammation, tendonitis, ligament sprains, or even fractures in some cases. Understanding the biomechanics of pickleball strokes and the specific movements that place stress on the wrist is essential for preventing and managing wrist injuries on the court.

Common Causes of Pickleball Wrist Pain

Several factors contribute to the development of wrist pain in pickleball players. Improper technique, such as using excessive wrist movement during strokes or gripping the paddle too tightly, can strain the wrist and lead to overuse injuries over time. Additionally, sudden impacts, falls, or collisions with the ball or other players can cause acute injuries like sprains or fractures. Poor conditioning, inadequate warm-up, and playing on hard surfaces can also increase the risk of wrist injuries during pickleball matches.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Wrist Pain from Pickleball

The symptoms of pickleball wrist pain may vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the injury. 

Common symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the wrist joint. In some cases, players may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand and fingers due to nerve compression or irritation. 

To diagnose pickleball wrist injuries, a thorough physical examination, including palpation, range of motion testing, and special orthopedic tests, may be performed. Imaging studies such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI scans may also be ordered to evaluate soft tissue and bony structures in the wrist for further assessment and treatment planning.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Pickleball Related Wrist Pain

Treatment for pickleball wrist pain often begins with conservative measures aimed at reducing pain and inflammation and promoting healing. Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Rest: Resting the affected wrist, applying ice packs, and using compression bandages or braces can help alleviate acute symptoms and protect the injured area from further damage. 
  • NSAIDs: Over-the-counter pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended to manage pain and swelling; when tolerated without side effects or allergy. 
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises focusing on stretching, strengthening, and proprioception can improve wrist function, stability, and range of motion. 

Additionally, modifying playing techniques, using ergonomic paddles, and ensuring proper warm-up and cool-down routines can help prevent recurrent wrist injuries in pickleball players.

Surgical Treatment Options for Pickleball Related Wrist Pain

In cases of severe or persistent wrist pain that does not respond to conservative treatments, surgical intervention may be necessary to address underlying structural problems or instability. Surgical options for pickleball-related wrist injuries may include:

  • Arthroscopic Ligament Repair: This minimally invasive procedure involves using a small camera (arthroscope) and specialized instruments to repair torn ligaments in the wrist. Arthroscopic ligament repair is often performed for conditions such as scapholunate ligament tears or triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) injuries.
  • Fracture Fixation: In cases of wrist fractures, surgical fixation may be required to realign and stabilize the broken bones. Common surgical techniques include the use of metal screws, plates, or wires to hold the fractured fragments in place while they heal. Fracture fixation is essential for restoring wrist stability and function, particularly in complex or displaced fractures.
  • Ligament Reconstruction: For patients with chronic instability or ligament laxity in the wrist, ligament reconstruction surgery may be recommended. This procedure involves using tissue grafts or synthetic materials to reconstruct damaged or deficient ligaments, restoring stability and preventing further joint damage.
  • Tendon Repair or Transfer: In cases of tendon injuries or degeneration, surgical repair or tendon transfer procedures may be performed to restore normal tendon function and improve wrist movement. Tendon repair involves reattaching torn or ruptured tendons to their anatomical insertion points, while tendon transfer involves relocating healthy tendons to compensate for damaged ones.
  • Partial Wrist Fusion: In severe cases of wrist arthritis or irreparable joint damage, partial wrist fusion surgery may be considered as a salvage procedure. Partial wrist fusion involves fusing the affected wrist bones together to eliminate painful motion and provide stability. While partial wrist fusion reduces movement in the joint, it can alleviate pain and improve function for some patients.
  • Proximal Row Carpectomy (PRC): In select cases of advanced wrist arthritis, PRC may be an option to relieve pain and restore wrist function. These procedures involve removing the damaged joint surfaces. Wrist arthroplasty techniques aim to preserve motion in the joint while reducing pain and improving quality of life.

The choice of surgical technique depends on the specific diagnosis, injury severity, and individual patient factors. Following surgery, a period of immobilization, followed by rehabilitation under the guidance of a hand therapist, is essential to maximize wrist function and strength.

Rehabilitation and Recovery From Pickleball Wrist Pain

Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in the recovery process for pickleball-related wrist injuries, whether treated conservatively or surgically. A structured rehabilitation program, tailored to the individual’s needs and functional goals, aims to optimize wrist mobility, strength, proprioception, and coordination. 

Early mobilization exercises, gentle stretching, and progressive strengthening exercises can help improve tissue healing, reduce stiffness, and prevent joint stiffness. As symptoms improve and strength returns, players can gradually reintroduce pickleball activities, starting with light drills and gradually progressing to full gameplay. 

It’s essential to follow the rehabilitation program diligently, avoid overloading the injured wrist, and listen to the body’s signals to prevent re-injury and optimize long-term outcomes.

Are You Experiencing Wrist Pain From Playing Pickleball?

Pickleball wrist pain is a common and challenging issue faced by players of all skill levels. If you’re experiencing pain in your wrists during or after playing Pickleball, give the HandSport Surgery Institute a call today.

By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pickleball-related wrist injuries, players can take proactive steps to prevent, manage, and recover from these conditions effectively. As hand and wrist surgeons, our goal is to provide comprehensive care and support to pickleball players, helping them stay healthy, active, and injury-free on the court. 

Remember, early intervention, proper technique, and a commitment to rehabilitation are key to overcoming pickleball wrist pain and enjoying the sport safely for years to come. Please contact Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky or Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky to schedule a consultation.