There are many reasons to love America’s fastest-growing sport, pickleball. It has experienced tremendous growth and popularity over the past 50 years due to its fantastic combination of badminton, ping pong, and other similar racket sports.
It is believed that pickleball is only going to expand even more in the upcoming decade. Indeed, the sport showed a 30 percent increase in membership in 2023, totaling 68,697 members in 2023.
The USA Pickleball Association has also been coming up with new pickleball courts. They have been busy transforming old tennis and other similar courts into courts with pickleball lines. As of January 17, 2023, there were a total of 44,094 courts known throughout the country.
Let’s take a closer look at other related statistics to convince you that pickleball is the right racket sport to get into today.
There are a lot of statistics to consider when talking about the rapidly growing sport that is pickleball. Statistics like the number of injuries or likelihood of injuries, growth rate, and others need to be considered for us to understand why they say pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country.
Reportedly, more than 36 million people played pickleball between 2021 and 2022. That’s a drastic increase from 2021’s 4.8 million. And the hype isn’t slowing down, with famous personalities like LeBron James taking an interest in the sport. This game’s ability to draw diversity and involve numerous communities is truly incredible.
Here are key pickleball statistics by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
History and Growth
One reason for the tremendous growth of pickleball is that people from all age groups and all athletic capabilities can play and enjoy this game.
The story of pickleball started in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington State. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum founded the game one summer, and it quickly spread among neighbors and friends.
Gradually, the game grew in popularity, until Pritchard and McCallum developed the Pickleball Inc Corporation in 1968. The name “pickleball” was trademarked around the same time the corporation released its first annual report in 1972.
The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976. And by 1990, it was played in all 50 states of the country.
The sport showed a 21.3 percent rate of growth from 2019 to 2020. It did slow down to just 14.8 percent between 2020 and 2021, but this was arguably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, despite the decline, pickleball’s average growth rate is 11.5 percent over the past five years.
Player Statistics for Pickleball
According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, there were over 4.8 million U.S. pickleball players from different backgrounds and walks of life in 2021. Out of the 4.8 million, it’s estimated that about 3.5 million were casual players with no interest in playing professionally in tournaments. In fact, these players only play one to seven times in a year. The remaining 1.4 million were core players who played more than eight times a year.
In terms of gender, 60 percent of all players are male, while 40 percent are female. However, the game has shown a faster growth rate for female players over the past few years.
Player Age Statistics for Pickleball
There is no age restriction for pickleball. Children, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens can all play the game. All you need is a pool of like-minded friends who also enjoy fast-paced racket sports.
That said, most players who started playing pickleball in 2021 were under 24 years of age. This led to a drop in the average age of all pickleball players from 40 in 2020 to 38.1 in 2021. This is younger than the average age of core players (47.9 years) and casual players (34.3 years) in 2021.
Here’s a quick summary of the number of players for different age categories:
- 6 to 17 years – 21.2% of all players, with 14.2% core players and 23.9% casual players
- 18 to 34 years – 28.8% of all players, with 16.8% core players and 33.5% casual players
- 35 to 54 years – 20.4% of all players, with 17% core players and 21% casual players
- 55 to 64 years – 12% of all players, with 19.2% core players and 9.2% casual players
- Over 65 years – 17.6% of all players, with 32.7% core players and 11.6% casual players
Location Statistics for Pickleball
By 1990, all 50 states of America played pickleball. At the end of 2021, over 9,524 places played pickleball, with an average of 66 additional courts being built every month.
The first National Pickleball Tournament took place in Buckeye Arizona in 2009 with over 400 participants.
A little over ten years later in 2021, the Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships took place in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden outside of Palm Springs. This tournament featured over 2,342 registered players who competed for $90,000 in prize money.
Racket Sportspersons Entering Pickleball Statistics
It’s true that you don’t have to be a professional player to start playing pickleball. However, most pickleball players are also tennis sportspersons. Indeed, players who have prior experience in tennis and other racket sports have the advantage of being very good at pickleball the moment they pick up the racket.
In fact, 18 out of the top 20 men and women double pickleball players have experience in other racket games. That is 90 percent of performing players.
Prize Money Statistics for Pickleball
Pickleball started out as a friendly neighborhood game meant for a group of friends and family. But over the years, the sport has grown professionally so that players can now compete in it for money and fame.
The Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) gave out a total of $2 million for tours in 2021. This grew to $5 million in 2022. That’s more than twice the amount! It’s safe to say that we can expect an even larger payout in 2023.
A lot of these funds are sourced with the help of the fund manager and co-founder of the Major League Pickleball in 2021. They also managed to pay out over $1 million in 2022, and $100,000 to the winning team for each of its tour stops.
That’s $25,000 per person on the winning team, which is currently the highest winning individual payout ever recorded for pickleball.
Injury Statistics for Seniors in Pickleball
Pickleball is a relatively safe sport compared to others like tennis. However, seniors over 60 years of age should still be vigilant and careful while playing as accidents can and do happen. And pickleball injuries have reportedly been increasing in recent years.
In 2018 alone, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System or NEISS recorded a total of 28,984 injuries for senior players. It further illustrated that senior males were 3.5 times more susceptible to injuries than senior females.
The most common pickleball injuries include slips, trips, falls, and muscle strains. Here is a breakdown of how often these injuries occurred:
- 33.2 percent of seniors obtained sprains or strains
- 28.1 percent obtained fractures
- 10.6 percent obtained contusions
With these statistics, it becomes clear that even though pickleball is safer than other sports, it still poses a risk for people over 60 years old. All players, especially the aged, should follow the game’s official guidelines and take special care not to injure themselves unnecessarily while playing.
Always remember that the game was created primarily for enjoyment. So, just relax, take as many breaks in between as you can, and have fun.
Pickleball is steadily growing in both casual and professional scenes. It can be a very fun and beneficial hobby for casual players. And because of its rising popularity, it can also be a very lucrative profession in the future if you do decide to start playing competitively.
Anyone can play this game, which means anyone can benefit from it. Benefits include physical, social, and mental health reasons.
Check out our other guides on The Volley to learn more about this amazing sport. We have recommendations for the best gear and outfits you can buy, and other tips to help you get started on the game.