Playing pickleball? Here’s how to prevent a rotator cuff injury

Injuries are on the rise among seniors due to pickleball’s popularity across the country. But no matter your age, it’s important to protect yourself when participating in athletic activities.

Sanford Sports athletic trainer Kyle Johnson explains how to prevent and recover from a common pickleball injury.

What is a rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a complex group of muscles and tendons that keep the upper arm secured in the shoulder socket and help with pushing, pulling, lifting and rotating the arm – among other motions. The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis.


Rotator cuff injuries are common among overhead athletes like pickleball players or anyone who frequently uses their arms above their head. The risk of injury increases with age and can include:

  • Rotator cuff tendinopathy: Also known as tendinitis, this injury is caused by inflammation of a tendon due to overuse.
  • Rotator cuff tear: This injury can be either a partial or complete tear. It often happens from wear and tear, but it can also be caused by a traumatic event.


Most rotator cuff injuries are painful, and people describe it as a dull ache in the shoulder. Other symptoms include

  • increased pain at night
  • difficulty moving the arm
  • weakness in the arm.


Maintaining a healthy and strong rotator cuff doesn’t require lifting heavy weights. One to two pounds is sufficient to maintain the function and strength of the muscles. Stretching regularly, especially before exercising, will also help to maintain good flexibility and function.


Physical therapy and modifying your activity level can help maintain tissue integrity and strength. If the pain increases in severity, additional measures such as injections or surgery might be recommended.

When an injury happens, Sanford Sports is here for you. Check out our physical therapy services to see how our team will help you recover quickly and safely.


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