In June 2020, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) commissioned the AIHW to investigate the benefits and costs to the health system associated with participation in physical activity. This analysis is part of a broader project to gather evidence around injuries arising by sport participation and the potential population benefits to be achieved through improved injury prevention and management and increased physical activity.

The purpose of this project is to quantify the health spending related to physical activity within the Australian population. This is done by assessing:

  • costs due to immediate and long-term risk of injuries; and
  • the avoided health spending due to better health status.

Estimates of the avoided health spending on chronic diseases from participating in physical activity will be released in a future publication.

The analysis presented in this report focusses on the immediate cost of injuries arising due to physical activity. This analysis expands on preliminary estimates presented in Economics of sports injury and participation – preliminary results, to include costs for injuries treated outside of emergency departments and hospital admissions.

Attributing health costs to diseases is complex and generally not undertaken annually. The most recent total injury spending estimates are available from the Disease expenditure in Australia 2018-19 report, and are the basis for spending estimates in this report. It is estimated that the immediate cost of treating injuries caused by physical activity through the health system was $1.2 billion in 2018-19, with:

  • $864 million spent in hospitals (including admitted patient care in public and private hospitals, outpatient clinics, and emergency departments)
  • $185 million on primary care (including general practice, allied health, pharmaceuticals, and dental), and
  • $133 million on referred medical services (including specialist services, medical imaging, and pathology).

The costs associated with injuries estimated in this report are assumed to reflect a preventable burden, in that the costs captured here reflect post-injury care rather than injury prevention activities, with the assumption that all injuries related to physical activity are potentially preventable (through improved prevention and injury management activities rather than avoiding activity).

Injury treatment also occurs through other areas of the health system, including physiotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture/acupressure and osteopathic services. In 2018-19, a total of $1.7 billion was spent on these services through private health insurance, though costs associated with these services are currently not able to be specifically attributed to injury versus other conditions.

Information on physical activity related injury costs is presented by age, sex, injury type, and treatment location. Additional information on the activity at time of injury and cost per participant is available for injuries treated during hospital admissions. Data in this report is available to download as an Excel workbook.

This report complements two others by the AIHW - Sports injury hospitalisations in Australia, 2019–20 and National sports injury data strategy.