Media releases

June 28, 2004

Sports injuries costing Australians over $1.8 billion; report shows

A new, independent report has revealed that 5.2 million sports injuries are incurred by Australians every year, representing a potential cost to the community of over $1.83 billion in direct and indirect costs.

These and other findings are contained in the Medibank Private Sports Injuries Report 2004, the second independent research project commissioned by the leading national health insurer into sports injuries in Australia.

The report combines academic modelling of the costs of sports injuries with an independent survey of over 650 Medibank Private members. This has produced an authoritative report on the cost and role of sport in the lives of ordinary Australians.

Medibank Private commissioned prominent sports and injury risk management expert Professor Caroline Finch of the University of NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre, to provide a contemporary estimate of the cost of sports injuries to the community.

This work has revealed:

  • Sports related injuries cost the community $1.83 billion annually;
  • 5.2 million sports injuries are incurred by Australians each year - of these, 3.6 million are untreated;
  • Sports related injuries account for nearly 300,000 emergency department presentations;
  • Sports related injuries account for almost 25,000 hospital admissions; and
  • Over 1.3 million sports injuries are treated by doctors and other health professionals on an outpatient basis.
Medibank Private also commissioned independent market research firm TNS to survey close to 650 Medibank Private members nationally about their sports injuries and general views on sport. From this, Sports Injuries Report 2004 can reveal:

  • Walking is Australia's most popular sport across all ages and genders;
  • Younger Australians are most likely to receive a sports injury, with one-in-four 18-24 year-olds injured in the past 12 months;
  • Less than six in 10 who participate in sport regularly warm up or cool down;
  • 30% of sports injuries are a recurrence of a previous injury;
  • The cost of sports injuries is higher for males than females across all age groups (except 75+); and
  • Nearly half of those surveyed (48%) exercise or play sport to keep fit, while only 10% do so to lose weight.
The report found that the vast majority of sports injuries incurred are still the result of traditional winter contact sports like Australian Rules Football, Rugby League and Union.

However it also found that participation in non-contact sports and recreational activities like golf, tennis or even yoga can still result in injury - particularly if the participant had not sought treatment for a previous injury, or had not adequately prepared by warming up.

Medibank Private Managing Director George Savvides said the company commissioned the research to better understand the cost and influence of sport on the lives of ordinary Australians.

"The research shows that a majority of people who participate in sport and recreational exercise will require some form of medical attention at some time in their lives because of an injury sustained in their chosen sport," Mr Savvides said.

"The risks are even greater among young people due to higher participation rates, with one in four 18-24 year-olds receiving a sports injury in the past 12 months.

"Medibank Private strongly encourages its members and the wider community to participate in sport and recreational exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.

"We commend the millions of Australians who are maintaining their health and wellbeing by participating in personal fitness regimes and individual and team sports. However we also advocate the importance of appropriate health insurance to expedite recovery in the event of a sports injury, and of course reduce out-of-pocket costs," Mr Savvides added.

Prominent sports physician and medical commentator Dr Peter Larkins collaborated with Professor Finch and Medibank Private on the report and endorsed its findings. He said a key focus in our understanding of health should be the high risk associated with obesity.

"Obesity is the tobacco of the 21st century," Dr Larkins said.

"In Australia 67% of males and 57% of females are overweight or obese, a condition which is unquestionably linked to a variety of serious health problems. It is therefore concerning that the Medibank study found just 10% of sport and recreational exercise participants do so to lose weight. Diet alone is not enough, and the simple answer is 'Get out there and do something! Move more!'"

Dr Larkins added that with the life expectancy of Australians steadily increasing it is critical to be protected against health issues that are traditionally associated with growing old.

"Maintaining effective personal nutrition, physical activity and mental health management are critical for avoiding medical conditions typically associated with aging such as coexistent diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and arthritis.

"There is overwhelming evidence to show that a physically active and healthy lifestyle will minimise the risk of exposure to the limitations that these problems can pose," he said.

A comprehensive summary of the Medibank Private Sports Injuries Report 2004 is available by clicking here.

Back to top