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Can You Hit a Pickleball with Your Hand?

A person holding a yellow pickleball.

We all know that pickleball is played similarly to tennis or ping pong by striking the ball back and forth with the paddle. But can you hit a pickleball with your hand, or must it always come into contact with the paddle itself? In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about how you can hit a pickleball and when you can use your hands.

Related To: How To Do a Dink Shot in Pickleball | Can You Smash in Pickleball? | Is a Backhand Serve Legal in pickleball?

Can You Hit a Pickleball With Your Hand?

An old pickleball player hitting the ball mid air.

The answer to this question is both simple and complex at the same time. Simply put: no, you may not ever deliberately strike the pickleball with your bare hand. So why is there some ambiguity about this?

If someone mentions being allowed to hit a pickleball with the hand, they may be referring to the rule about the ball striking your body. Whether you are allowed to return a pickleball after it hits you comes down to where it makes contact with your body.

What Happens if a Pickleball Hits Your Hand?

A man trying to make a service on a pickleball match.

In most cases, when a player hits the ball and it strikes their opponent’s body or clothing, it counts as a fault.

The exception is when the ball makes contact with your arm below your wrist. In this case, you can return the ball as usual, and the ball will remain in play.

If the ball hits a player above the wrist, it is an automatic fault against them.

What Happens if The Ball Hits Your Foot?

A chubby woman playing pickleball.

It doesn’t matter where the ball hits you in play — whether your foot, clothing, head or even just your hair. It all counts the same, with the single exception of hitting the hand below the wrist. If the ball hits a player or anything on their body, it is no longer in play, and a point is awarded to the server.

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The other exception is when the ball enters your side of the court and bounces before hitting you at any point aside from your hand below the wrist. In this case, most people consider the ball to be still in play, and no points are issued.

Does it Matter if The Hit is Intentional?

Couple celebrating a game on a pickleball match.

In terms of whether the hit counts as a fault, it does not matter whether the hit is intentional or accidental. However, pickleball has strict expectations of sportsmanship. If the referee determines that a player is showing aggressive or unsportsmanlike behavior, they may award a technical foul.

Technical fouls include any behavior that a referee deems to cross the line into “aggressive.” This includes:

  • Throwing the paddle in anger without concern for where it will land
  • Using violent or obscene language
  • Making a verbal threat against an opponent or other person on the court
  • Challenging the referee’s call without calling a time-out
  • Calling a medical time-out without need when other time-outs are not available
  • Behaving in any way that the referee deems to be extremely unsportsmanlike
  • Hitting or throwing the ball without paying attention to the consequences

Similarly, players can be issued an official warning for behaviors such as

  • Aggressive or profane language
  • Arguing
  • Repeatedly disrupting play
  • Abusing the ball
  • Challenging line calls repeatedly
  • Coaching that the referee considers inappropriate
  • Abusing medical time-outs
  • Behaving in any way that the referee deems mildly unsportsmanlike

Consequences For a Technical Foul in Pickleball

There is no consequence for a first technical foul in pickleball. However, the second technical foul will result in the offending player losing a point or their opponent being awarded another point. These calls are ultimately up to the referee, who is responsible for gauging the behavior of the players.

Should You Wear Protective Gear in Pickleball?

A professional player with full gear on a pickleball match.

Unlike some sports with a higher risk of being seriously injured, pickleball is considered a low-risk sport. For this reason, you won’t see many pickleball players wearing any kind of protective gear. Protective gear and accessories, including visors, jackets, and sweatbands, are permitted.

The biggest exception you’ll find is eye gear. Some players may opt to wear protective glasses or goggles, especially if they wear regular glasses. This keeps their eyes protected from the dangers of broken glass, which can happen if a ball comes flying at their face or if they trip.

Wearing protective eye gear in pickleball is completely up to you. But of all the options, this is the one that makes the most sense, and there are no downsides!