Can You Play Pickleball With Bad Knees?

Can You Play Pickleball With Bad Knees?

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Yes, you can play pickleball with bad knees, but you need to take precautions and listen to your body. Playing pickleball can be a fun and social way to stay active, even if you have knee problems like osteoarthritis. However, it’s important to take steps to prevent further knee damage and manage any existing pain or problems.

How Is Pickleball on Your Knees Compared to Other Sports?

Pickleball is generally considered easier on the knees than more intense court sports like tennis or racquetball. Here are some reasons why:

The Smaller Court Size Reduces Running

The pickleball court is much smaller than a tennis court. This means less back and forth running during games, reducing the impact on your knees. The smaller space also allows you to reach the ball faster with fewer lunges and quickchanges of direction that can strain the knees.

Lower Intensity Than Other Racquet Sports

Pickleball games tend to involve less continuous high intensity movement compared to sports like tennis. Points are shorter, and there is more back and forth volleying rather than running. This makes pickleball less taxing on the knees over time.

Underhand Hits Reduce Impact

Many pickleball strokes like underhand hits (dinks) and drop shots involve less forceful impact on the knees compared to the constant overhand hitting in tennis. The underhand motions are gentler on the leg joints.


A common myth is that playing sports like pickleball can cause osteoarthritis or make it worse. But medical experts confirm that the physical activity itself does not cause arthritis or accelerate joint degeneration. In fact, being inactive is worse for arthritis sufferers.

Low Impact Exercise Helps Manage Arthritis

For people with knee osteoarthritis, low impact activities like pickleball can help manage joint pain and stiffness. Exercise improves flexibility, range of motion, and lubrication of the knee joint. Just be sure to stop if any activity causes sharp pain.

Listen to Your Body

If you have existing knee problems, don’t try to push through intense pain. Stop playing and take a break if your knees hurt during a game. Consult a doctor if the pain persists or worsens. Monitoring your pain levels helps prevent further damage.

How to Play Pickleball With Bad Knees

If you want to keep enjoying pickleball but suffer from knee troubles, here are some pro tips to help you prevent injuries and manage discomfort:

Use Proper Technique

Having correct pickleball form reduces strain on your knees. Some key techniques include:

  • Keeping your weight balanced and knees slightly bent during shots.
  • Using smooth footwork without abrupt stopping or changing directions.
  • Letting your arm do the work on strokes without twisting the knees.
  • Bending low with control when volleying balls near the non-volley zone.

Consider Lessons

If you are new to pickleball, sign up for lessons from a certified pro. They can teach you techniques tailored to protecting your knees like proper footwork, stroke mechanics, and strategies to avoid sudden movements.

Know When To Stop

Don’t try to play through sharp knee pain. Stop and take a break. You can switch to keeping score or line calling to stay involved without taxing your knees further.

Manage Your Weight

Extra weight puts more pressure on the knee joints during physical activity. Losing excess pounds reduces strain, allowing you to play longer with less discomfort.

Strengthen Your Legs

Building muscle strength in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes takes pressure off your knees by providing more support. Do exercises like squats or leg presses a few times a week.

Braces Can Help

Wearing a knee brace or sleeve during pickleball can improve stability and support. But don’t depend on a brace alone – proper strengthening and conditioning is still important.

Warm Up And Cool Down

Always warm up your knees before play with 5-10 minutes of light movement or stretching. Afterward, cool down with gentle stretches. Apply ice packs as needed to reduce swelling.

Use Cushioned Insoles

Insoles with arch support or gel padding absorb impact and reduce knee strain from Pickleball’s stop-and-go motions. Replace insoles regularly as cushioning wears down.

Know When To See A Doctor

See your physician promptly if you experience symptoms like joint locking, instability, intense pain, or swelling. They can provide specialized care to keep you in the game.


The bottom line is pickleball can be a knee-friendly sport with proper precautions. Focus on low-impact exercise, healthy weight, correct techniques, knee protection, and listening to your body. Adjust your play style and take breaks as needed. With the right care, people with mild to moderate knee troubles can stay active on the pickleball courts. But those with severe knee problems should consult a doctor before playing any racquet sports.

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