UnitedHealthcare warned of rising healthcare utilization rates. Is pickleball to blame?

UnitedHealthcare executives recently warned of rising healthcare utilization rates as they saw a higher-than-expected number of hip replacements, knee surgeries and other elective procedures. Analysts from UBS Group AG are suggesting that pickleball could be one factor driving the higher rate of injuries, Bloomberg reported June 26. 

The firm estimates that there could be between $250 million and $500 million in medical costs attributable to pickleball injuries this year, according to the report. Analysts said that the number of pickleball players is expected to grow by 150 percent this year  to 22.3 million. They estimate about a third of the core players who play at least eight times per year are older adults.   

The analysts looked at two studies regarding pickleball injuries and concluded that players go to the emergency department at a rate of about 0.27 percent, with the majority of injuries occurring among those 60 and older, according to the report. The most common injuries are strains, sprains, and fractures. The wrist and lower legs are the most likely areas to be injured. 

"While we generally think of exercise as positively impacting health outcomes, the 'can-do' attitude of today's seniors can pose greater risk in other areas such as sports injuries, leading to a greater number of orthopedic procedures," the analysts said. 

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