Pickleball Injuries Could Result In $500 Million in Medical Costs This Year

Pickleball lower back

UBS analysts estimated pickleball would contribute to medical expenses from $250M-$500M in 2023.

The surging popularity of pickleball, America's fastest-growing sport, is leading to unexpected medical costs, according to a recent report.  The projections anticipate approximately 66,750 emergency room visits and 366,186 outpatient visits related to pickleball injuries this year.

One key factor contributing to the significant medical costs associated with pickleball is the sport's demographic. The game, known for its combination of tennis and ping pong, has gained popularity among older players. Seniors comprise approximately one-third of pickleball's core players, defined as individuals who play at least eight times a year.

The UBS analyst note referenced a 2021 study examining pickleball and tennis-related injuries, which revealed that nearly 34,000 emergency department visits were attributed to pickleball between 2010 and 2019. Notably, 86% of these ER visits involved individuals over the age of 60.

The majority of pickleball injuries are sprains, strains, and fractures, often occurring in the wrist, lower leg, head, and lower trunk. These statistics were highlighted in the analyst note.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association declared pickleball as America's fastest-growing sport for the third consecutive year in February. Participation in the sport witnessed a remarkable 158.6% increase over three years, nearly doubling in 2022 alone, according to the association's report. Estimates regarding the number of pickleball players in the US vary significantly.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association estimated that there were 8.9 million pickleball players aged six and above in the US, while the Association of Pickleball Professionals estimated a figure of 36.5 million players in January. The UBS analysis projected that there would be approximately 22.3 million pickleball players in the US in 2023. The analysts based this estimate on current Google Trends searches for pickleball courts, which showed a significant increase (+110%), indicating further growth acceleration.

As the popularity of pickleball continues to rise, it is crucial for athletes, whether playing in repurposed retail spaces or prominent locations like Silicon Valley, to exercise caution and prioritize their safety.

How do ice baths prevent pickleball injuries?

Ice baths, also known as cold water immersion or cryotherapy, are often used by athletes as a recovery and injury prevention strategy. While ice baths may not directly prevent injuries, they can provide several benefits that contribute to injury prevention indirectly. Here's how ice baths can help:

Reducing inflammation: Intense physical activity can cause micro-tears in muscles and tissues, leading to inflammation. Ice baths can help minimize this inflammation by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the affected areas. By reducing inflammation, ice baths can potentially mitigate the risk of developing overuse injuries or exacerbating existing ones.

Alleviating muscle soreness: Engaging in strenuous exercise can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which typically occurs 24 to 72 hours after intense workouts. Ice baths can help alleviate muscle soreness by numbing the area and reducing pain sensations. By reducing muscle soreness, athletes may be able to maintain proper form and technique during subsequent workouts, reducing the risk of compensatory movements that could lead to injuries.

Enhancing recovery: Ice baths promote faster recovery by facilitating the removal of metabolic waste products (such as lactic acid) from the muscles. This helps restore normal muscle function and reduce the risk of fatigue-related injuries.

Promoting circulation: After the initial vasoconstriction caused by cold exposure, the body's response is to increase circulation to warm up the affected areas. This increased circulation can promote healing and tissue repair by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

What are the most common pickleball injuries?

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