Why Play Padel
Neuropsychology of Padel Tennis – Why padel is such a fantastic and addictive sport!
Padel is good for your brain
Your brain is challenged
Padel tennis is a ball game and that means the sport contains speed. The speed of tactical changes between players and the speed of different ball exchanges are all much more than in tennis. That has a lot to do with the fact that the court is smaller and you are closer to each other. Also, the ball has less speed than in tennis so there is a much better chance that your opponents can return the ball. Third, the walls may be used, this means the ball is in play much longer, with less dull moments. In tennis, the ball is often out and has to be fetched which creates a lot of pauses.
Mentally, the higher speed of changes in padel means that the brain has to calculate more and quicker where the ball will come and what has to be done to return the ball. Padel clearly is more dynamic than tennis. Your brain is challenged more than in tennis. Padel is easier to play and learn than tennis because less physical strength and technical capacities are demanded and there is a fantastic combination between your brain, challenged to its limits and your body that has to move a lot, but not necessarily as accurately as in tennis.
Your brain is rewarded
So there are more challenges in padel but you don’t have to have extreme technical skills and so the challenges are more easily met. More challenges means more adrenaline in your brain. More challenges met means more dopamine (reward center) and endorphines in your brain. You will get more rewards in padel than with other ball games which are technically more difficult. That is the simple reason that once you have played padel you get hooked to it much more easily. It is no coincidence that people who try padel play it more often and for longer than any other sport they used to play.
Padel is one of the easiest ball games to pick up, everyone can learn padel in less than an hour. With tennis you will need several lessons taking up to several months to play it to a reasonable level. So padel gives you self confidence much quicker than tennis.
Increased hand eye coordination
In padel a lot of hand eye coordination is required, therefore the visuo-spatial capacities of your brain are trained, of course this is the case with tennis as well. However, padel is easier than tennis so the visuo-spatial training is more intense and frequent than in tennis simply because you get more rallies between players. Because the padel racket is shorter than the tennis racket (so closer to your body and hand) it is closer to your reaching space. This personal space is very well represented and trained in your brain because of its frequent use everyday. Therefore it is handled much more easy than the extra-personal space in which the tennis racket is moved in. It takes considerable more practice to hit a high velocity ball correctly with a longer tennis racket and smaller blade than with a padel racket.
Another factor intensifies the visuo-spatial training in padel more than in tennis; the use of the walls. In padel there are many more bouncing effects and calculations for your brain to make than in tennis, so it is more challenging for the brain. This makes it more exciting as well, more adrenaline and alertness is called for than with just a lost ball out or in the net. In padel with a strong ball of your opponent you always have two chances;
- Hitting the ball directly after it has hit the ground
- Hitting the ball after it bounces off the back or side wall
The second option gives you more time to react and is especially used by somewhat slower people (e.g. elderly, children). That’s why padel is very friendly for elderly and younger children.
As for concentration, this is trained excellently in padel due to the fact that the rallies are longer, there is more need for adrenaline and dopamine, two of the known neurotransmitters to boost your attention. So a longer and more intense training of your concentration. Also more volleys at the net are possible in padel because the ball has less speed than in tennis doubles. So again, more adrenaline and dopamine. That is also the subjective experience of people playing padel.
Padel is fun!
More fun also means that there can be more laughs playing padel and that is the experience many players have. More laughing means that the social interactions between players are running more smoothly and much more relaxed. Therefore, people are less touchy in padel and even more competitive players are more emotionally normal than with other competitive ball sports. Padel actually stimulates parts of the brain that can regulate emotions (e.g. prefrontal cortex). Another reason why padel is more social than other ball games is that the levels of competence can differ more. Even though the competence levels vary, you can always have good rallies in padel, much more so than with tennis.
Another essential aspect of padel is learning to control your emotions (impulses). Learning to control or regulate your emotions is even more important in padel than in tennis or other ball games. Just because padel seems so easy the urge to hit more difficult balls is much higher. Hitting hard is not much use in padel simply because the ball bounces back off the back walls and a return is relatively easy for your opponent. Also, hitting hard makes it even tougher to get the ball to hit the ground first. That is why you see a lot of slice in padel when you watch matches. Padel teaches you how to place a ball more precisely.
Last but certainly not least, the executive functions are much better trained in padel. These are the more tactical functions (planning, self-control) In your brain. A tactical well placed ball is always better (and even essential) in padel than hitting hard. Due to the fact that the ball is returned much more easily than in tennis, more emphasis In training will be on slower well placed balls. This trains the excellent emotional control of yourself and the ball.
Padel is good for your personal and social development
Officially padel is played as doubles, therefore more social interaction is possible as you stand closer together on a smaller court. As said before playing padel probably uses more dopamine (more rewarded challenges) than other more difficult ball games. People’s mood will be better, their so called defence systems will be more relaxed, so normally padel has more positive social interactions than other more demanding ball games.
In padel, differences in ability are less important to still have a good game. It is more forgiving than tennis, less dull moments, more balls hit correctly. Actually, the time you spend together in a happy mood and being more active, increases the social bond stronger than in a match with a lot of faults and dead moments.
This is why padel is for everyone, technically less challenging and more ball contact, padel is an ideal family sport.
Padel is good for your body
Better for your knees
Padel does challenge your aerobic capacity as the ball isin play much longer than in tennis. However, the court is smaller and with four players you have to run less than in tennis doubles or squash, so there is less strain on your knees. Actually, that is why a lot of elderly people can play padel with more pleasure than tennis.
Better for your spine
A padel court is smaller than a tennis court, the walls can be used, the speed of the ball is less, so there are less difficult and slower turns possible so padel puts less strain on your back. Also, the padel serve is underarm, it has to be done after bouncing the ball once, which puts much less strain on your back.
Better for your shoulders
Due to the service which is underarm, there are much less shoulder injuries than in tennis.
Better for your wrist and elbow
The speed of a tennis ball and the higher tension on a tennis racket put much more strain on your arm, wrist and elbow when returning the ball. In padel, the velocity of the ball is less, the blade is much closer to your wrist and body so there is less force on these parts of your body. There are much less known reports of padel players having problems with their wrists or elbows. Of course, when playing extremely frequently even in padel these problems can occur, but less often than with tennis.
Better for the elderly and people with injuries
Padel puts much less strain on your body parts than tennis, squash or even hockey. Whereas in these sports a lot of ankle, back or shoulder injuries are seen, in padel this is hardly the case. Up till a very advanced age you could play padel without serious physical problems. At the same time it still challenges your total body, all muscles are involved and your heart/lung condtion is being challenged as well.
Better for your eyes
Although eye injuries are rare in tennis as well, in padel due to the slower ball speed, there is a lesser chance of a serious eye injury. Furthermore, control of emotions and more emphasis on ball placement even make it harder to hit someone in the eye.
Padel is a very safe sport in which injuries are rare if you are prepared and warm up and exercise regularly. It is a very fun and addictive sport to play!