Pickleball Injuries Are to Blame for Surging Health Care Costs: Kiplinger Economic Forecasts

Insurers have reported higher demand than expected for health care related to pickleball injuries. It could cost the U.S. up to $500 million.

Four people playing pickleball
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pickleball has become a popular hobby for many adults, but the physicality of the game has led to an increase in hospital visits. To help you understand what is going on and what we expect to happen in the future, our highly-experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest...

Pickleball, America’s hottest new sport, may be driving up health care costs. Chalk it up to exploding popularity, especially among older Americans. About 9 million Americans over the age of 6 played pickleball last year, and over half of avid players (playing eight or more times per year) are age 55 or older, says USA Pickleball, the sport’s governing body. Almost a third of players are 65-plus. Insurers UnitedHealth and Humana recently warned that a jump in medical costs this year was due to higher-than-expected demand for surgeries and other procedures. 

Swiss bank UBS concluded that pickleball is a major culprit and will cost the U.S. between $250 million and $500 million this year. The breakdown of the cost estimate: 366,000 outpatient visits, 67,000 emergency room trips, 20,000 post-acute episodes, 8,800 outpatient surgeries and 4,700 hospitalizations. Most injuries occur among folks who are over age 50, say other studies, and can lead to hip, knee and other surgeries.

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This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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Sean Lengell
Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

Sean Lengell covers Congress and government policy for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in January 2017 he served as a congressional reporter for eight years with the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times. He previously covered local news for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. A native of northern Illinois who spent much of his youth in St. Petersburg, Fla., he holds a bachelor's degree in English from Marquette University.