HINSDALE, Ill. — Being stuck inside during the winter months of the pandemic has many going stir crazy. But one winter sport that allows for socializing from a distance while getting some fresh air is gaining popularity.
It’s been around for nearly 100 years. A cross between tennis, racquet ball and table tennis, platform tennis has seen a surge in popularity during the pandemic.
“We've seen probably you know 30 to 40% increase in our play levels,” said Mark Schaub of the Hinsdale, Illinois paddle club.
Paddle tennis is a winter sport that's played between October and March.
The court is a third of the size of a normal tennis court and is surrounded by 12-foot-high chicken wire fence.
“The ball can go by you, hit the screen, come back and you can hit it,” said Schaub.
The courts are also heated to melt snow and keep them dry.
“We'll play all the way down to like zero degrees and, in some cases, guys will play below zero,” said Schaub.
For Steve Aronson, paddle tennis has become a way to deal with too much time indoors.
“Being outside all winter makes the winters go really quickly,” he said.
Its popularity has exploded over the last decade and even more so during the pandemic as people struggle for ways to stay active and social.
“It's gotten extraordinarily busy,” said Schaub. “The more cases there are, and the more people are shut out of other activities they're turning to, in this case, paddle.”
Eric Pitcher who never played tennis, picked up a paddle 10 years ago.
“There's a bunch of guys I play with on Sunday morning at 7:30,” he said. “They're a little nutty but we have an awful lot of fun.”
But platform tennis does have a very high rate of injury.
“I've had a bicep tendon tear,” said Aronson.
“I have a shoulder. It's partially torn,” said Pitcher.
The cold temperatures affect blood flow to the tendons and muscles so warming up is important for the mostly over 40 players.
“We do know that approximately 66% of platform players suffer some form of injury. And out of those 66%, approximately 60% are repetitive injuries,” said Dr. Tom Lotus, a paddle tennis player and physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Hospital in Chicago.
But in a time when social distancing is needed, if done right, it may be just the right medicine, says Claudia Serwat.
“All I'm doing is working out on my house. I’m on stupid Zoom calls all the time. It's literally it's saved me from going crazy.”