Returning to Pickleball Stronger After Injury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three and a half years ago, Ruby Garmyn was walking his dog at Bend’s Pine Nursery Park when he saw a group of people his age playing pickleball. Intrigued by the sport, he signed up for an introductory class through Bend Park and Recreation District. 

From then on, “I was hooked (on pickleball) for life,” said Garmyn, 64. Soon, Garmyn was on the pickleball court five to six days a week for two hours straight. “I was playing like a nut,” he added.

Garmyn’s rigorous exercise routine took a toll on his body — his left knee in particular. A retired police officer, Garmyn said his knee pain dated back to his career in law enforcement but was exacerbated by playing pickleball. 

Garmyn said he “tried everything” to alleviate his nagging knee pain, including taking Advil before matches, and cortisone and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections in his knee. But nothing helped long-term, he said. 

This past December, Garmyn decided to undergo total knee replacement surgery. The week after surgery, he began physical therapy three times a week with PT Eric Edwards at the Rebound’s Bend North clinic. 

During three months of consistent physical therapy, Garmyn worked to regain flexibility and strength in his knee. “(Edwards) helped me build up some muscles I didn’t realize I still had.” 

Developing a strong fitness base is crucial for injury prevention, as  “pickleball is a demanding sport (on the body),” said Edwards. In addition to knee pain, playing pickleball “can lead to overuse injuries like ankle fractures, rotator cuff tears and shoulder tendonitis.” 

Edwards gave Garmyn pickleball-specific exercises to improve his proprioception (awareness of self-movement and body position) and balance. For example, Edwards said he would have Garmyn stand on a Bosu balance ball and practice throwing and catching a ball. 

Garmyn said he stayed motivated throughout the rehab process by his desire to return to the pickleball court and “play even better than I was before.” 

He did just that: Garmyn recently achieved a 4.0 player skill rating (set by the USA Pickleball Association). A member of the Bend Pickleball Club and Pickleball Zone, Garmyn said he is back to playing pickleball for two hours at a time, three to four times a week pain-free. He’s looking forward to competing in local tournaments once they resume.

When asked what factors contributed to his successful return to the sport, Garmyn was quick to answer: “Physical therapy had everything do with it.”