Jun 27, 2023 - Economy

How pickleball is impacting the health care system

Data: Weiss, et al., 2021; UBS; Chart: Axios Visuals

A spike in injuries from pickleball's surge in popularity is driving up medical costs, possibly to the tune of a half billion dollars, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Pickleball is the nation's fastest-growing sport — but it comes with a few unintended consequences.

Zoom in: Pickleball injuries are creating $250 million to $500 million in medical costs annually, UBS analyst Andrew Mok estimated after assessing data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association and studies about the sport.

The impact: The pickleball-induced sprains, strains and fractures to wrists and legs are contributing to the spike in treatments that sent shares of health insurers plunging earlier this month.

  • 80% of the costs are for outpatient treatment, while Medicare is picking up 85% of the tab, with more than 8 in 10 Pickleball patients over 60 years old, the UBS analyst estimates.

By the numbers: Roughly 22.3 million people are expected to play pickleball this year, up from 8.9 million in 2022 and 3.5 million in 2019, according to UBS.

  • 73% are white, and 45% have an income of more than $100,000.

💭 Nathan's thought bubble: Don't forget to stretch, folks.

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