Short-Term Absenteeism and Health Care Utilization Due to Lower Extremity Injuries Among Novice Runners: A Prospective Cohort Study

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe absenteeism and health care utilization (HCU) within 6 weeks after occurrence of running-related injuries (RRIs) among novice runners and to explore differences relating to injury and personal characteristics.

Design:

Prospective cohort study.

Setting:

Primary care.

Participants:

One thousand six hundred ninety-six novice runners (18-65 years) participating in a 6-week running program (“Start-to-Run”).

Main Outcome Measures:

Injury characteristics were assessed by weekly training logs and personal characteristics by a baseline questionnaire. Data on absenteeism and HCU were collected using questionnaires at 2 and 6 weeks after the RRI occurred.

Results:

A total of 185 novice runners (11%) reported an RRI during the 6-week program. Of these injured novice runners, 78% reported absence from sports, whereas only 4% reported absence from work. Fifty-one percent of the injured novice runners visited a health care professional, mostly physical therapists (PTs) rather than physicians. Absenteeism was more common among women than men and was also more common with acute RRIs than gradual-onset RRIs. As regards HCU, both the variety of professionals visited and the number of PT visits were higher among runners with muscle–tendon injuries in the ankle/foot region than among those with other RRIs.

Conclusions:

Among novice runners sustaining an RRI during a 6-week running program, over three quarters reported short-term absence from sports, whereas absence from work was very limited, and over half used professional health care. Both absence and HCU are associated with injury characteristics.

Clinical Relevance:

In future running promotion programs (eg in Start-to-Run programs), specific attention should be paid to acute injuries and to muscle–tendon injuries in the ankle/foot region.

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