Pickleball could be responsible for up to $500 million in medical costs this year, one industry watcher says

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  • America’s fastest-growing sport is driving unexpected medical costs, according UBS analysts.
  • They estimate that up to $500 million of medical costs in 2023 will be attributable to pickleball.
  • They cited a study that estimated there were nearly 34,000 ER visits caused by pickleball from 2010 to 2019.

As pickleball continues to surge in popularity, America’s fastest-growing sport is also likely driving unexpected medical costs.

A UBS analyst note estimated pickleball, which has been likened to a combination of tennis and ping pong, would be responsible for $250 million to $500 million of medical costs in 2023. The analysts estimate there will be 66,750 ER visits and 366,186 outpatient visits from pickleball this year.

One reason for the high medical costs associated with pickleball is the sport’s demographic. The sport, which is relatively easy to learn and has low physical impact, has become popular with older players; seniors make up one-third of pickleball’s “core players,” referring to those who play at least eight times a year, according to the note.

The analyst note cited a 2021 study of pickleball and tennis-related injuries that estimated there were nearly 34,000 emergency department visits caused by pickleball from 2010 to 2019. Of those ER visits, 86% occurred in people over 60 years old.

More than 60% of these pickleball injuries were sprains, strains, and fractures, and most injuries are in the wrist, lower leg, head, and lower trunk, the note says.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association reported in February that pickleball was America’s fastest-growing sport for the third year in a row. Participation in the sport grew by 158.6% over three years, almost doubling in 2022, according to the association’s report. Estimates of the number of pickleball players in the US vary widely.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s report estimated there were 8.9 million pickleball players above the age of six in the US; the Association of Pickleball Professionals estimated in January that there were 36.5 million pickleball players in the US.

The UBS analysis estimated there would be 22.3 million pickleball players in the US this year. The analyst note said the estimate was “informed by current Google Trends searches for pickle ball courts (+110%) and evidence of further acceleration in growth.”

Let’s hope those athletes — whether they are playing at a former big-box store or in the heart of Silicon Valley — are being careful. 

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