Pickleball could be a major culprit in injuries leading to an increase in people using healthcare services—news that caused big health insurance companies’ shares to fall earlier this month—according to UBS analysts, who released a note Monday estimating Americans will spend between $250 million and $500 million in costs tied to pickle injuries this year.
On the note, UBS highlighted certain demographic figures to back up its claim that pickleball could be contributing to the rise in healthcare costs, including: seniors make up about one third of the 22.3 million people expected to play pickleball this year, and pickleball players tend to have high incomes, with nearly half bringing home more than $100,000 annually.
They then looked at pickleball injury data, which shows injuries tied to the sport among players 60 and older have been rapidly increasing for years and the sport has become “an increasingly important cause of injury” for seniors, according to one study.
The increases in players and demographic breakdown of those enjoying the sport led UBS to predict that pickleball will lead to: 67,000 emergency department trips, 366,000 outpatient visits, 8,8000 outpatient surgeries, 4,700 hospitalizations and 20,000 post-acute episodes.
The analysts estimated those medical trips and procedures will result in approximately $377,000,000 of medical costs, 80% of which will be in an outpatient setting.
“While we generally think of exercise as positively impacting health outcomes, the ‘can-do’ attitude of today’s seniors can pose greater risk in other areas such as sports injuries, leading to a greater number of orthopedic procedures,” read the UBS note.
Since it was reported in mid-June that more seniors enrolled in Medicare have been undergoing surgeries for nonurgent issues like knees and hips, healthcare investors have tried to pinpoint what is causing the increase, beyond the obvious reason of having surgeries done that were put off during the pandemic for safety reasons. So, UBS looked to pickleball, which has skyrocketed in popularity—especially among seniors—in recent years. The UBS note also stated that pickleball is “a microcosm for broader trends in the senior population that may have an outsize impact during the reopening phase,” adding that seniors are now living longer and are more active. A pickleball report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association showed a 113.1% increase in participation from 2020 to 2022, and in December, Sports Illustrated dubbed the sport “the fastest-growing” in America. And although UBS seems to be the first to tie pickleball to the increase in people undergoing nonurgent surgeries, its cause of injuries isn’t new. A report from 2019 in the Journal of Emergency Medicine estimated there were about 19,000 pickleball injuries per year, with 90% of them affecting people 50 or older.
Pickleball Injuries May Cost Americans Nearly $400 Million This Year, According to UBS (Bloomberg)
Health Insurance Stocks Tumble Over Spike In Surgeries Delayed By Pandemic (Forbes)