Media releases

July 28, 2003

Sport Injuries in Australia now costing $1.5 billion a year in new Report finding

Sports related injuries are costing Australians over $1.5 billion each year, according to a report released today by the nation's largest private health insurer, Medibank Private.

The Medibank Private Sports Injuries Report found that Australians aged between 15 and 29 who participated in some form of sports activity, were twice as likely to incur an injury requiring medical treatment

The report also lists the nation's Top 10 injury-prone sports, based on emergency department presentations. Australian Rules football, cycling, soccer and the rugby codes filled the top places on the list.

However perceived lower impact / non contact sporting pastimes such as Dancing also featured, reinforcing the Report's findings that lower body sporting injuries were twice as common as upper body injuries.

The inaugural Sports Injuries Report, combines independent sports injury research with Medibank Private's expansive medical and ancillary claims database totalling almost three million lives under the fund's coverage.

Managing Director of Medibank Private, George Savvides, said the fund commissioned the collaborative research work in an effort to better understand and more accurately assess the true cost of sport and recreation related injury in Australia.

Mr Savvides said the Report unveiled the growing cost and incidence of sports related injuries in Australia, while reinforcing the importance of injury prevention techniques.

"1 in 17 Australians now experience a sports related injury each year at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion - a figure that has been growing steadily over the past five years", Mr Savvides said.

"Whilst Australians love their sport and millions have a passion for an improved healthy lifestyle, it is clear the importance of sports injury prevention has to be further reinforced in the community and at all levels of sporting endeavour.

"As such people should strongly consider the importance of private health insurance and its relationship to sport and an active lifestyle.

"There is a link between active participation in sport or physical exercise and positive health to help counter the fast growing incidence in Australia of obesity, and poor health related heart and diabetic conditions."

2002 data from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare identifies growing numbers waiting over 12 months for elective surgery in the public system, reinforcing the Medibank Private report's assertions that individuals should possess private health insurance cover in the event of incurring a sports related injury.

Sports physician and commentator, Dr Peter Larkins, endorsed the Report's findings.

"There is no doubt about the health benefits of regular physical exercise far outweigh the risks", Dr Larkins said.

"Exercise can be stressful and injuries do occur. The secret is to determine the best type of exercise routine for you."

"And if a problem does occur make sure you seek an early assessment and medical advice."

Key findings of Medibank Private's inaugural Sports Injuries Report include;

  • One in 17 Australians experience a sports injury every year;
  • The cost to the community is now $1.5 billion per annum based on an actuarial assessment by Medibank Private of existing Australian health costs and prior sports injury research;
  • Individuals in the 15-29 year old age group are twice as likely to incur a sporting injury requiring medical treatment;
  • The 10 most injury prone sports in Australia are dominated by the major football codes and other competitive ball sports such as netball, but also include sports that many would perceive to be lower impact, like dancing;
  • Men account for 55% of all surgery-related ankle, elbow, knee, shoulder and wrist injuries.
  • The average cost of surgery and rehabilitation for a serious knee injury could add up to over $10,000.

Mr Savvides said Medibank Private encouraged its diverse membership base to participate in sport and exercise, but urged individuals to both fully understand the potential costs of their activity and to consider their level of private health insurance cover.

Click here to download Medibank Private "Sports Injuries Report", July 2003.

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