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Muscle Soreness After Playing Pickleball

Hi, my name is Tony and I am a 47-year-old brand-new pickleball player who also happens to be a licensed physical therapist.

In this article, I want to discuss the question “Why am I so sore after playing pickleball?

What Causes Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is often caused by micro-tears in the muscles of our body. These micro-tears may affect the muscle, tendons, ligaments, and fascia.

Eccentric Exercise

When a muscle is working it is “contracting.” Muscle contractions happen in 3 ways:

  • Eccentric
  • Concentric
  • Isometric

Eccentric muscle contractions are known to generate the most force, but also may contribute to the most residual muscle soreness after exercise.

Most Common Eccentric Movements in Pickleball

1. Pickleball Swing Follow-Through

Your coach is probably always telling you to finish your follow-through. This is a common tip in golf. The same advice applies to pickleball. After striking the ball with a forehand or backhand you should finish your follow-through. 

Since so many players want to return to the ready position after striking the ball they cut the follow-through short and as a result experience a large eccentric muscle load on the posterior shoulder and back of the arm. (Read more about shoulder pain and pickleball.)

2. Stopping Your Body’s Forward Momentum

Pickleball has a lot of quick movements and deceleration. For example, when you are attacking the net, you will move forward quickly, but then you will need to stop even more quickly.

That stopping motion places a lot of eccentric loading on your quadriceps muscle (the muscles on the front of your thigh) which may result in significant quadriceps soreness the next day.

Why Does a Pickleball Beginner Get Sorer than a Veteran?

I am in the classification of pickleball beginners (see also ‘Is Pickleball Easy For Beginners?‘) and I can tell you from experience that I am moving in ways I have never moved before. 

New Movements

The human body is incredibly adaptable. The first time I perform a new exercise I experience significant soreness, but after repeating the exercise for a couple of workouts I am no longer sore the next day. 

As a pickleball newbie, I could barely lift my arm the day after my first practice, but that is because I have never swung a pickleball paddle let alone swung it 500 times.

New pickleball players (see also ‘How Many Players Do You Need For Pickleball?‘) are often the sorest after the first couple of practice sessions, but their body will quickly adapt and they should experience less soreness or no soreness after the 3rd or 4th training session.

What is DOMS?

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. 

It may affect highly trained elite athletes and novice pickleball newbies alike. 

Even at the highest levels of training, athletes who start new workout routines or change something about the intensity or duration of a training session may experience delayed onset muscle soreness.

How long does it last?

DOMS usually starts 8 to 12 hours after the workout and may last up to 72 hours after the workout.

If you are experiencing a bout of DOMS it is recommended that you reduce the intensity of your next training session or extend your recovery time between training sessions. 

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