In the sport, which is a hybrid of badminton, ping-pong and tennis, players use a plastic-perforated ball, slightly heavier than a whiffle ball, and wooden or composite paddles that are about twice the size of ping-pong paddles, with a high potential for eye injuries.
Welcome to another edition of Eyepod, the podcast series from Ophthalmology Times that offers the latest cutting-edge advancements and trends in ophthalmology. As pickleball continues to gain popularity across the country, the potential for players to get hurt participating in the sport is also on the rise.
Daily, more and more people are hitting the pickleball courts, with investment bank U B S estimating there has been a 150 percent increase in the number of people playing the game this year with 22.3 million people now on the courts, making it the fastest growing sport in America over the last two years, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
In the sport, which is a hybrid of badminton, ping-pong and tennis, players use a plastic-perforated ball, slightly heavier than a whiffle ball, and wooden or composite paddles that are about twice the size of ping-pong paddles.
According to Pickleball Magazine, a pickleball can travel at one-third the velocity of a tennis ball, or about 40 miles per hour. The magazine noted that when the players are positioned at the “no-volley line,” it can take 350 to 400 milliseconds - less than half a second - for the ball to travel from one paddle to the other. This does not leave players any time to avoid being hit in the eye with a ball. In addition to injuries from being hit by a ball, serious damage can occur from being hit in the eye with a paddle.
The magazine also suggests that players suffering eye trauma while playing the sport see an ophthalmologist should an injury result in a change or loss in vision, substantial pain, bleeding or bruising.
Doctor Annette Hoskin, a Research Fellow at the Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney and the Lions Eye Institute, University of Western Australia in Perth, noted that with the increase in popularity of the sport, ophthalmologists are likely to see an increase in eye injuries connected to the game.
Hoskin explained that eye injuries in sport are a mix of factors relating to the presence of a bat or ball, the size of the court and opportunity for impact with other players increasing the risk of eye injury.
With the ball being similar in size, but more than half the weight of a tennis ball, Hoskin said she suspect sthe most likely injury is associated with blunt trauma, with possible orbital fractures or hyphemia as result.”
Moreover, players at higher risk include high myopes, those with previous surgery, cataract, and are more likely to sustain an eye injury with more severe consequences.
According to the researchers, the sport is gaining popularity among older Americans, who may not have the quickness or agility to avoid contact injury. USA Pickleball, the sport’s governing body in the United States, estimates that about 17 percent of pickleball players are 65 and older.
The costs of all pickleball injuries, including eye injuries, could result in health insurance costs ranging from 250 million dollars to $00 million dollars in 2023 alone, according to estimates from U B S.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 40 percent of eye injuries each year occur during sports and recreational activities, and 53 percent of ophthalmologists surveyed in a report pointed out that most sports related eye injuries they treat are among teenagers (ages 13 to 19), followed by young adults (20s), children (12 and under), adults (30-50) and older adults (50 and older).
Moreover, the Academy noted there are about 30,000 sports related eye injuries annually the United States, many of which could be avoided with adequate eye protection.
In its report, UBS has calculated medical costs for the year and is forecasting 67,000 visits to the ER room, 366,000 outpatient visits, 8,800 outpatient surgeries, 4,700 hospitalizations with 20,000 follow-up 'episodes' relating to injuries caused by pickleball, including eye injuries.
A total of 377 million dollars in medical costs can be attributed to pickleball, with 302 million dollars in outpatient settings and 75 million dollars in inpatient settings.
Thank you for listening to this edition of EyePod.