Factors predicting a high risk of multiple injuries in runners

Posted on December 01, 2021

In recent years, physical activity has been actively promoted, and the levels of participation by recreational runners in mass-participation events have increased. Despite obvious health benefits, running does have a high risk of injury, with 20–80% of runners reporting a running-related injury in a 12-month period. There are very few studies however, that have investigated or reported on multiple injuries per individual runner per year and over more than one season. A recently published study conducted by researchers at UP’s Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Institute (SEMLI) explored whether there are risk factors that could predict those runners at higher risk of multiple injuries in a year.


Data was collected from 75 401 race entrants of the Two Oceans 21.1km and 56.0km races from 2012 to 2015 through an online pre-race medical screening questionnaire. The average number of injuries for each runner every year was calculated by taking a runner’s race entry history and injury history into account and categorizing entrants into 4 Multiple Injury Risk (MIR) categories - high, intermediate, low, very low.


They found that 1 in 250 race entrants were at high risk of multiple injuries, i.e. having on average >1 injury/year. The independent risk factors that were predictive of MIR runners included older age (>40 years), running ultramarathon distances, running recreationally for more than 20 years, having a history of chronic diseases, and having a history of allergies. This research may assist clinicians to now be able to identify a specific sub-group of runners that are at higher risk of multiple injuries. This high-risk group could then be targeted for further study and possible injury prevention interventions.


Reference for this article:

Sonja Swanevelder, Nicola Sewry, Martin Schwellnus, Esme Jordaan. Predictors of multiple injuries in individual distance runners: A retrospective study of 75,401 entrants in 4 annual races – SAFER XX, Journal of Sport and Health Science (2021)

Published by Jill Borresen

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