Everyone Is Still Getting Hurt Playing Pickleball

And insurance companies aren’t happy about it

People play pickleball at the Arroyo Seco Racquet Club in South Pasadena
Hip replacements and knee surgeries are on the rise
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Last summer, we reported on the popularity of pickleball and how people’s obsession with the sport is causing injuries like pickleball elbow, along with Achilles tendon and knee ligament strains. As the activity has only gained prevalence in the last year (the sport is estimated to grow by 150% to 22.3 million players in 2023, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association), that means that pickleball-related injuries show no signs of slowing. People are even opting to get more elective surgeries that are tied to the sport, which insurance companies are obviously not happy about.

According to Front Office Sports, investment banking company UBS Group AG has a new theory that links rising healthcare costs to pickleball injuries. The findings come a month after UnitedHealth Group Inc. stated that rates were up as more people opt for “hip replacements, knee surgeries and other elective procedures.”

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Pickleball players go to emergency rooms at a rate of around 0.27%, according to USB’s analysis. And of those players, the company also estimates that seniors make up around a third of “core players” who hit the court at least eight times in one year. So the better part of the injuries obtained from the sport occurs in folks who are 60 and older. As mentioned above, strains and sprains are common injuries — as are fractures — mostly in the wrists and lower legs.

“In total, we estimate 67k ED visits, 366k outpatient visits, 8.8k outpatient surgeries, 4.7k hospitalizations and 20k post-acute episodes,” UBS wrote, per Bloomberg. “All said, we estimate $377 million of medical costs related to pickleball, of which $302 million (80%) is attributable to the outpatient setting and $75 million (20%) is attributable to the inpatient setting.”

As we previously reported, pickleball is often considered low-impact (at least compared to tennis), but all that running around and swinging your racket can lead to injuries without a proper warmup. So if you’re hitting the courts this summer, don’t forget to start with dynamic stretching, and if something feels too intense for your body, it probably is.

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