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What are the Main Risk Factors for Running-Related
Sports Med
DOI 10.1007/s40279-014-0194-6
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
What are the Main Risk Factors for Running-Related Injuries?
Bruno Tirotti Saragiotto • Tiê Parma Yamato •
Luiz Carlos Hespanhol Junior • Michael J. Rainbow
Irene S. Davis • Alexandre Dias Lopes
•
Ó Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014
Abstract
Background Despite several studies that have been conducted on running injuries, the risk factors for runningrelated injuries are still not clear in the literature.
Objective The aim of this study was to systematically
review prospective cohort studies that investigated the risk
factors for running injuries in general.
Data Sources We conducted electronic searches without
restriction of language on EMBASE (1980 to Dec 2012),
PUBMED (1946 to Dec 2012), CINAHL (1988 to Dec
2012) SPORTDiscus (1977 to Dec 2012), Latin American
and Caribbean Centre on Health Sciences Information
(1985 to Dec 2012) and Scientific Electronic Library
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0194-6) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
B. T. Saragiotto T. P. Yamato L. C. Hespanhol Junior A. D. Lopes
Master and Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy, São Paulo
Running Injury Group (SPRunIG), Universidade Cidade de São
Paulo, Rua Cesário Galeno, 448, São Paulo 05077-100, Brazil
B. T. Saragiotto (&)
Universidade Cidade de São Paulo, Rua Cesário Galeno,
448-Tatuapé, São Paulo, SP CEP 03071-000, Brazil
e-mail: [email protected]
L. C. Hespanhol Junior
Department of Public and Occupational Health and EMGO
Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical
Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 Amsterdam,
The Netherlands
M. J. Rainbow I. S. Davis
Spaulding National Running Center, Department of Physical
Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School,
1575 Cambridge Street, Cambridge 02138, USA
Online (1998 to Dec 2012) databases, using subject headings, synonyms, relevant terms and variant spellings for
each database.
Study Selection Only prospective cohort studies investigating the risk factors for running-related musculoskeletal
injuries were included in this review. Two independent
reviewers screened each article and, if they did not reach a
consensus, a third reviewer decided whether or not the
article should be included.
Study Appraisal and Synthesis Methods Year of publication, type of runners, sample size, definition of runningrelated musculoskeletal injury, baseline characteristics,
reported risk factors and the statistical measurement of risk
or protection association were extracted from the articles.
A scale adapted by the authors evaluated the risk of bias of
the articles.
Results A total of 11 articles were considered eligible
in this systematic review. A total of 4,671 pooled
participants were analysed and 60 different predictive
factors were investigated. The main risk factor reported
was previous injury (last 12 months), reported in 5 of
the 8 studies that investigated previous injuries as a risk
factor. Only one article met the criteria for random
selection of the sample and only six articles included a
follow-up of 6 months or more. There was no association between gender and running injuries in most of the
studies.
Limitations It is possible that eligible articles for this
review were published in journals that were not indexed in
any of the searched databases. We found a great heterogeneity of statistical methods between studies, which prevented us from performing a meta-analysis.
Conclusions The main risk factor identified in this review
was previous injury in the last 12 months, although many
risk factors had been investigated in the literature.
123
B. T. Saragiotto et al.
Relatively few prospective studies were identified in this
review, reducing the overall ability to detect risk factors.
This highlights the need for more, well designed prospective studies in order to fully appreciate the risk factors
associated with running.
1 Introduction
Running is one of the most popular physical activities
around the world, and, due to the health benefits, low cost
and ease of implementation, the number of runners has
grown significantly over the past decade [1–3]. However,
injuries in runners are common [4, 5]. Depending on the
population of runners studied and the definition of runningrelated musculoskeletal injuries (RRMI) used [4, 6, 7],
incidence rates range between 18.2 and 92.4 %, and
prevalence rates range between 6.8 to 59 injuries per
1,000 hours of running [4, 8–11]. Running injuries have
multifactorial aetiology and are commonly related to
overuse (repetitive microtrauma that overloads musculoskeletal structures). In addition, they can be classified as
gradual onset injuries caused by repeated microtrauma
without a single and identifiable event [11, 12]. Generally,
the factors associated with running injuries are attributed to
personal characteristics of the runners (anatomical or biomechanical factors) and training errors such as training
volume, weekly distance and running experience [2, 5, 9,
13].
Some studies have reviewed the literature on the
associated factors for running injuries [4–7, 14].
However, some of these reviews are not systematic or
included studies with retrospective or cross-sectional
designs, which are not the appropriate designs for
investigating risk factors [15]. Additionally, runners
experience over 20 different injuries and the most
common injuries vary among studies [16]. Therefore,
when assessing risk factors of all running injuries,
including studies of specific injuries may introduce
bias by placing too much emphasis on that injury or a
specific risk factor, and may overlook other important
risk factors. We note that only a systematic review of
prospective cohort studies focused on all injuries
caused by running is capable of overcoming these
limitations [15, 17, 18]. Despite several studies that
have been conducted on running injuries, the risk
factors for running-related injuries are still not clear in
the literature. Therefore, this study aims to systematically review only prospective cohort studies that
investigated the risk factors for running injuries in
general.
123
2 Methods
2.1 Information Sources
We conducted electronic searches on Embase (1981 to Dec
2012), PubMed (1946 to Dec 2012), CINAHL (1988 to Dec
2012) SPORTDiscusTM (1977 to Dec 2012), Latin American
and Caribbean Centre on Health Sciences Information
(LILACS) [1985 to Dec 2012] and Scientific Electronic
Library Online (SCIELO) [1998 to Dec 2012] databases,
without restriction for languages and date of publication. We
used subject headings, synonyms, relevant terms and variant
spellings for the searches on each database. The full electronic
search for EMBASE database is presented in Appendix S1 of
the electronic supplementary material (ESM).
2.2 Study Selection
We only included prospective cohort studies that investigated risk factors for running-related injuries, since
prospective cohort studies are the preferred design to
provide direct and accurate estimates of incidence and
risk [15]. We excluded articles that (i) studied risk factors for a specific injury (e.g., medial tibial stress syndrome); (ii) aimed to analyse risk factors and/or injuries
of other sports that include running (e.g., triathlons); (iii)
analysed only injured runners or did not describe if all
runners were injury-free at baseline; (iv) reported on
experimental and controlled studies on the effectiveness
of an intervention or prevention programme. We chose
to exclude articles that focused on specific injuries
because some injuries could be under- or over-represented in this review and our results would be biased
toward risk factors for that specific injury regardless of
the true injury distribution in the population of injured
runners. The screening of eligible studies was performed
in two steps. First, screening the title and abstract, where
we excluded articles if they did not mention runners or
running. Second, the full text of the selected articles
were analysed according to our inclusion and exclusion
criteria. Each step was performed by two independent
reviewers (BTS and TPY), and if they did not reach a
consensus, a third reviewer (ADL) helped decide whether the article should be included.
2.3 Data Collection
The following data were extracted from these articles
selected for the review: first author’s name, year of publication, type of runners (e.g., marathon runners or recreational runners), sample size, definition of RRMI,
Risk Factors for Running-Related Injuries
baseline characteristics, reported risk or protection factors, and the statistical measurement of risk or protection
factors associated with RRMI. The results were expressed
with the statistical measure used by the author (HR:
hazard ratio; OR: odds ratio; RR: relative risk; RIR: relative injury rate; and CI: confidence intervals). Predictive
factors to running-related injuries were classified as risk
or protection. A risk factor was considered when HR, OR,
RR or RIR was greater than 1.0, and a protective factor
was considered when HR, OR, RR or RIR was lower than
1.0. Two independent reviewers extracted the data (BTS
and LCHJ) and disagreements were resolved by discussion between the two review authors; if no agreement
could be reached, arbitration was performed by a third
reviewer (ADL).
2.4 Risk of Bias Assessment
The instrument used for assessing risk of bias of the
included articles was adapted from the Newcastle Ottawa
Scale (NOS) for cohort studies [19]. The NOS is a quality
assessment tool for cohort and case-control studies, in
which a star rating system is used to indicate the quality of
a study, with a maximum of nine stars [20]. The instrument
was modified for the purpose of this review and the population of runners, with three criteria added to the original
scale. The criteria adopted to assess risk of bias were:
(i) description of runners or type of runners; (ii) definition
of RRMI; (iii) representativeness of the exposed cohort;
(iv) selection of the non-exposed cohort; (v) ascertainment
of exposure; (vi) demonstration that outcome of interest
Table 1 Description of the 11 criteria designed to assess risk of bias in the studiesa
Criterion
Description of criteria
1. Description of runners or type of runners
There are several types of runners (recreational, elite, ultra marathoners, marathoners, etc.).
Without the description regarding to the type of runners it is impossible to conclude which
population the incidence rates refer to. Studies that reported a description of the runners or
informed the type of runners receive a star for this criterion. Studies conducted in running
races (which may determine the type of runners; e.g., marathon race) and which describe
the race characteristics receive a star for this criterion as well. Studies that did not describe
the characteristics or the type of runners, and studies conducted in running races that did not
describe the characteristics of the race did not receive a star for this criterion
2. Definition of running-related musculoskeletal
injury
Studies that aimed to investigate running injuries should present a definition of a runningrelated musculoskeletal injury informing what was considered as an injury in the study.
Studies that present a definition of running-related musculoskeletal injury received a star
for this criterion
3. Representativeness of the exposed cohort
(a) Truly representative of the average runners in the community*; (b) somewhat
representative of the average runners in the community*; (c) selected group of users; (d) no
description of the derivation of the cohort
4. Selection of the non-exposed cohort
(a) Drawn from the same community as the exposed cohort*; (b) drawn from a different
source; (c) no description of the derivation of the non-exposed cohort
5. Ascertainment of exposure
(a) Secure record*; (b) structured interview*; (c) written self report; (d) no description
6. Demonstration that outcome of interest was
not present at start of study
(a) Yes*; (b) no. Studies that described that all runners included were injury-free at baseline
received a star for this criterion
7. Comparability of cohorts on the basis of the
design or analysis
(a) Study controls for the most important factor (stated in the background of the study*;
(b) study controls for any additional factor*. For this criterion, studies could be awarded
with two stars
8. Assessment of outcome
(a) Independent blind assessment*; (b) record linkage*; (c) self-report; (d) no description
9. Was follow-up long enough for outcomes to
occur?
(a) Yes*; (b) no. Studies that carried out a follow-up period of at least 12 weeks received a
star for this criterion
10. Adequacy of follow-up of cohorts
(a) Complete follow-up of all subjects accounted for*; (b) subjects lost to follow-up unlikely
to introduce bias (up to 20 % loss) or description provided of those lost*; (c) follow-up rate
\80% and no description of those lost; (d) no statement. A loss to follow-up greater than
20 % may increase the risk of bias in prospective studies [21]
11. Statistic measurement for risk association
Prospective studies should inform a statistical measure to determine risk association (e.g.,
hazard ratio, odds ratio, relative risk) and the confidence interval. Studies that gave a
statistical measure of risk received a star for this criterion
a
The articles could be awarded a maximum of one star for each item, except for item 7, which could be awarded two stars. A total of 12 stars
could be given for the articles
*
Articles with this alternative received a star for this criterion
123
B. T. Saragiotto et al.
Fig. 1 Flow diagram of
selection and inclusion process
in the systematic review
was not present at start of study; (vii) comparability of
cohorts on the basis of the design or analysis; (viii)
assessment of outcome; (ix) whether follow-up was long
enough for outcomes to occur; (x) adequacy of follow-up
of cohorts; (xi) statistical measurement of the association
of risk factors (e.g., HR, OR, RR). The articles could be
awarded a maximum of one star for each item, except for
item 7, which could be awarded two stars. Thus, a total of
12 stars could be given to the articles. The description of
each criterion is presented in Table 1.
3 Results
A total of 7,536 studies were found. Among them, 1,494
were duplicates that appeared in at least two databases.
Screening the titles, abstracts and full text, if appropriate,
we found 11 prospective cohort studies that met the
inclusion criteria. Figure 1 shows a flow diagram of the
complete process of article inclusion.
From the 11 articles included in this review, a total of
4,671 participants were pooled and 60 different risk factors
123
were investigated. The main intrinsic risk factor reported
by the studies was previous injury in the last 12 months
(Table 2), reported as a risk factor in five [22–27] of eight
studies that investigated this factor. Higher quadriceps
angle of the knee (Q angle) was associated with running
injuries in two [24, 28] of the three studies that analysed
this factor. Two [23, 27] of the five studies that investigated
weekly distance as a risk factor identified that training for
more than 64 km a week was a risk factor for lower
extremity injuries. Five studies investigated the relationship between weekly running frequency and running injuries, and two of these studies [27, 29] reported a significant
association with running injuries. One study [27] reported
that running three to seven times a week was a risk factor
for running injuries in men and running seven times a week
was a risk factor for women. Another study [29] reported
that running once a week was a risk factor for women.
Gender was not associated with running injuries in most of
the studies.
Due to the importance of the ‘previous injury’ factor
found in this study, we presented all data of the articles that
investigated previous injuries in a separate table (Table 3).
Risk Factors for Running-Related Injuries
Table 2 Risk factors related to running-related injury observed in at
least two articles
Risk factor
Articles that identified risk
factor (n)
Articles that investigated
risk factor (n)
Previous
injuries
5
8
Q angle
2
3
Weekly
distance
2
5
Weekly
frequency
2
5
average stars awarded to the included articles was 9 of a
total of 12 stars, with a maximum of 11 and a minimum of
5 (Table 5).
4 Discussion
Eight studies investigated previous injury as a risk factor
and five of these found a positive association (62 %), two
articles found the association in men and three articles
found the association for both sexes. Due to the different
statistical measures used by the studies, we contacted the
authors for the raw study data. However, most authors did
not provide the raw data, which prevented us from performing a meta-analysis or a more comprehensive interstudy comparison. We extracted data from multivariable
analysis, since univariate or raw data were not available in
most of the articles included. The full list with the 60
factors investigated by the studies is presented in Table S1
(see ESM). The characteristics of the 11 articles included
in this review are described in Table 4.
Regarding the assessment of risk of bias, the criteria
most frequently awarded a star were definition of RRMI
(11/11), selection of the non-exposed cohort (11/11),
demonstration that outcome of interest was not present at
start of study (11/11) and follow-up long enough for outcomes to occur (11/11). On the other hand, the criteria with
fewer stars awarded to the articles were ascertainment of
exposure (4/11) and assessment of outcome (3/11). The
Eleven articles met the inclusion criteria and were included
in this systematic review. A total of 4,671 pooled participants was analysed and 60 different risk factors were
investigated. However, whilst many risk factors have been
investigated, just ten of these were investigated in at least
five articles. The main risk factor found was previous
injuries, usually in the past 12 months, reported in 62 % of
the articles that investigated this factor. Weekly distance,
weekly frequency and higher Q angle were associated as
risk factors by two studies. This is the first systematic
review with only prospective cohort studies that studied
risk factors for running-related injuries. Other reviews
focusing on the factors associated with running injuries
have also found an association with previous injury and
weekly distance.
The association between previous injury and the
development of a new injury or a similar injury of greater
magnitude has been reported as a risk factor for sports in
general [34]. In addition, some authors suggested that the
association between previous injuries and new injuries was
due to an incomplete recovery from the earlier injury [26,
29]. Most studies (6/8) defined the period for previous
injuries to be in the last 12 months. Running injuries are
commonly related to overuse, which is an overload of the
musculoskeletal system [11]. An overuse injury can be
defined as one caused by repeated microtrauma without a
single, identifiable event responsible for the injury [12].
Therefore, increased training loads can exacerbate the
Table 3 Studies that found previous injuries as a risk factor for running-related injuries
Study
Previous injury period (months)
Pileggi et al. [30]
Risk factor for men
Risk factor for women
Risk factor for both sexes
Statistic
95 % CI
Statistic
95 % CI
Statistic
95 % CI
p [ 0.05
NR
NR
RR 1.8
1.0–3.1a
12
RIR 2.0
1.2–3.2a
NR
p [ 0.05
NR
a
NR
3–12
HR 2.7
1.3–5.3
NR
[12
HR 2.1
1.0–4.3a
NR
NR
Lun et al. [31]
12
NR
NR
NR
NR
Fields et al. [32]
NR
p [ 0.05
NR
p [ 0.05
NR
Macera et al. [23]
12
OR 2.7
2.6–2.7a
OR 1.9
0.7–4.9
a
RR 2.3
1.3–4.1a
Buist et al. [22]
Walter et al. [27]
Rauh et al. [24]
Wen et al. [26]
b
12
RR 1.69
1.3–2.2
CI confidence interval, HR hazard ratio, OR odds ratio, RR relative risk, RIR relative injury rate, NR not reported
a
Statistically significant
b
This article found the risk factor only for more than four previous injuries
123
Follow-up
period
9 weeks
12 months
13 weeks
One
season
11 weeks
6 months
Study
Bredeweg
et al. [33]
123
Pileggi
et al. [30]
Buist et al.
[22]
Rauh et al.
[28]
Rauh et al.
[24]
Lun et al.
[31]
87 recreational runners
421 cross-country runners
393 cross-country runners
532 novice runners
18 amateur runners
210 novice runners
Population
Canada
USA
USA
The
Netherlands
Brazil
The
Netherlands
Country of
origin
NA
NA
Q angle right-left difference C4 (RR
1.8/CI 1.1–2.9)
(RR 1.5/CI 1.1–2.3)
Q angle 15 to \20
Previous sports activities without axial
load (HR 2.05/CI 1.03–4.11)
Previous injury [12 months prior (HR
2.14/CI 1.05–4.35)
Previous injury 3 to 12 months prior
(HR 2.7/CI 1.32–5.30)
Higher BMI (HR 1.14/CI 1.05–1.25)
NA
NA
Risk factors for men
Table 4 Description of studies included, statistic measures and 95 % confidence interval of multivariate analysisa
NA
NA
Q angle right-left difference
C4 (RR 1.8/CI 1.3–2.7)
Q angle C20 (RR 1.6/CI
1.1–2.5)
Navicular drop (HR 0.87/CI
0.77–0.98)
NA
NA
Risk factors for women
Terrain adjusted—summer injury (HR
1.64/CI 1.04–2.61)
NA
Terrain adjusted—Q angle C20 (HR
2.45/CI 1.64–3.65)
Surface adjusted—Q angle C20 (HR
2.42/CI 1.62–3.63)
Surface adjusted—summer injury (HR
1.60/CI 1.01–2.55)
Pace adjusted—summer injury (HR
1.62/CI 1.02–2.56)
Previous running injuries C4 (RR 1.8/
CI 1.0–3.1)
Pace adjusted—Q angle C20 (HR
2.43/CI 1.63–3.63)
Q angle C20 (RR 1.8/CI 1.3–2.4)
Q angle [20 (RR 2.0/CI 1.4–2.8)
Q angle C15 and \20 (RR 1.4/CI
1.1–1.9)
Q angle right-left difference C4 (RR
1.8/CI 1.4–2.5)
Q angle C20 (RR 1.7/CI 1.2–2.4)
NA
Less lower extremities flexibility
(p \ 0.05)
Lower left plantar flexion (p \ 0.05)
Lower resting cardiac frequency
(p \ 0.05)
Lower left knee extension (p \ 0.05)
NA
Risk factors for both sexes
B. T. Saragiotto et al.
Follow-up
period
13 weeks
32 months
1 year
12 months
Study
Taunton
et al. [29]
Wen et al.
[26]
Fields et al.
[32]
Macera
et al. [23]
Table 4 continued
583 recreational runners
40 runners of a running club
255 runners of a marathon
training programme
844 recreational runners
Population
USA
USA
USA
Canada
Country of
origin
Age \31 years (RR 0.57/CI
0.34–0.96)
Running shoe age 4–6 months (RR
0.35/CI 0.15–0.83)
Weekly distance [64 km (OR 2.9/CI
1.1–7.5)
Running experience 0–2 years (OR 2.2/
CI 1.5–3.3)
LEX injury 12 months (OR 2.7/CI
2.6–2.7)
NA
NA
Age [50 years (RR 1.91/CI
1.10–3.32)
BMI [26 kg/m2 (RR 0.40/CI
0.21–0.78)
Concrete surface (OR 5.6/CI
1.1–29.3)
NA
NA
Running shoe age 1–3 months
(RR 0.61/CI 0.37–0.98)
Running shoe age 4–6 months
(RR 1.73/CI 1.00–2.98)
Frequency 1 day/week (RR
3.64/CI 1.08–12.29)
Risk factors for women
Risk factors for men
NA
Type A behaviour high scores
(p \ 0.05)
Exposure weeks: previous injuries
(RIR 2.01/CI 1.26–3.21)
Exposure weeks: high experience
(RIR 1.88/CI 1.15–3.05)
Exposure miles: low age (RIR 0.38/CI
0.15–0.97)
Exposure miles: hours/week increased
(RIR 0.57/CI 0.42–0.78)
Exposure hours: high arch index (RIR
0/CI 0–0.36)
Exposure hours: hours/week increased
(RIR 0.57/CI 0.45–0.73)
Exposure hours: low leg-length
difference (RIR 1.96/CI 1.07–3.58)
NA
Risk factors for both sexes
Risk Factors for Running-Related Injuries
123
123
12 months
Walter
et al. [27]
1,288 runners enrolled in 2
community race events
Population
Canada
Country of
origin
NA
Injuries in previous year (RR
2.35/CI 1.33–4.07)
7 days running per week (RR
5.50/CI 1.44–17.39)
Running year round (RR 2.00/
CI 1.01–3.75)
Weekly distance C64 km (RR
3.42/CI 1.42–7.85)
Type of runner—competitive (RR 1.73/
CI 1.21–2.49)
Previous injury past 12 months (RR
1.69/CI 1.27–2.25)
Height—average 1.70–1.79 cm (RR
2.04/CI 1.15–3.46)
Height—tallest C1.80 cm (RR 2.30/CI
1.29–3.90)
Use of stretching—sometimes (RR 1.56/
CI 1.10–2.21)
Weekly distance C64 km (RR 2.22/CI
1.30–3.68)
Longest run each week [8 km (RR
2.49/CI 1.64–3.71)
Running year round (RR 1.64/CI
1.12–2.35)
7 days running per week (RR 5.92/CI
2.49–12.75)
6 days running per week (RR 3.66/CI
1.62–7.50)
5 days running per week (RR 3.13/CI
1.38–6.46)
4 days running per week (RR 2.49/CI
1.08–5.26)
3 days running per week (RR 2.93/CI
1.27–6.20)
Risk factors for both sexes
Risk factors for women
Risk factors for men
a
We extracted only data from multivariate analyses for the articles, because some articles did not report the univariate analysis or used a different statistical analysis
BMI body mass index, CI confidence interval, HR hazard ratio, LEX lower extremity, NA no association, OR odds ratio, RR relative risk, RIR relative injury rate
Follow-up
period
Study
Table 4 continued
B. T. Saragiotto et al.
Risk Factors for Running-Related Injuries
Table 5 Risk of bias assessment of the studies
Study
Criteria for assessing risk of bias
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Bredeweg et al.
[33]
*
*
*
*
*
*
**
Pileggi et al.
[30]
*
*
*
b
*
Buist et al. [22]
*
*
*
*
Rauh et al. [28]
*
*
*
*
Rauh et al. [24]
*
*
*
*
Lun et al. [31]
*
*
*
*
*
*
Taunton et al.
[29]
*
*
*
*
Wen et al. [26]
*
*
*
*
*
*
Fields et al. [32]
a
8
*
9
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
**
*
*
*
*
**
*
*
b
*
*
*
**
**
11
*
*
*
10
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Macera et al.
[23]
*
*
*
*
*
**
*
*
*
Walter et al.
[27]
*
*
*
*
*
**
*
*
*
a
Criteria for assessing risk of bias: (1) description of runners or type
of runners; (2) definition of running-related musculoskeletal injuries;
(3) representativeness of the exposed cohort; (4) selection of the nonexposed cohort; (5) ascertainment of exposure; (6) demonstration that
outcome of interest was not present at start of study; (7) comparability
of cohorts on the basis of the design or analysis; (8) assessment of
outcome; (9) was follow-up long enough for outcomes to occur; (10)
adequacy of follow-up of cohorts; (11) statistical measurement of the
association of risk factors
b
Some of the exposures were classified as ‘secure record’ and others
as ‘self-reported’
*Star(s) awarded for each criterion
symptoms of a previous overuse injury, which can be
mistaken as a new injury. Importantly, runners can adopt
different biomechanical patterns when injured, probably in
an attempt to execute a strategy of motor protection of the
injured structure during running. This change of pattern can
lead to overloading of musculoskeletal structures that were
intact before the injury, causing a new injury.
Only one biomechanical (alignment) risk factor was
found in more than one study. Higher Q-angle factor was
significantly associated with running-related injury. Theoretically, a greater Q angle is related to the increase of the
lateral pull on the patella against the lateral femoral condyle, which contributes to patellar subluxation and other
patellofemoral disorders [28]. A recent systematic review
[35] of the factors associated with patellofemoral pain
syndrome demonstrated that a large Q angle could be
associated with the development of patellofemoral syndrome, despite the great difference found among several
methods of measuring the Q angle that made it difficult to
compare studies. Furthermore, there is no consensus on
what can be considered a normal Q angle [35, 36]. This
high heterogeneity of studies demonstrates the importance
of standardizing the methods of measuring and interpreting
the Q angle [35, 36].
This review found in two studies [23, 27] that weekly
distance was a risk factor for running injuries; runners who
train a distance of more than 64 km per week might be
more likely to sustain a running injury. Runners who
usually train longer distances each week can overload their
musculoskeletal structures beyond their body’s regeneration abilities, resulting in a musculoskeletal injury. Two
studies [27, 29] also reported an association between
weekly frequency and running injuries. One study [27]
reported that a frequency of three to seven times per week
for men and seven times a week for women was associated
with risk of injury. In another study [29], a frequency of
once a week was found as a risk factor for only women.
The association between training characteristics and running injuries seems to be complex. A systematic review of
training errors and running injuries could not identify
which training variables are related to running injuries,
since methodological limitations hindered comparison
between studies [14].
The magnitudes of risk found for all risk factors were
between 1.4 and 5.9. For the main risk factor, previous
injury, the magnitude of risk varied from 1.7 to 2.7 among
the studies, which represents the same scale of risk for most
studies that investigated previous injuries. In the assessment of risk of bias, most of the articles awarded at least
nine stars (75 %) of a total of 12, representing a relatively
low risk of bias. Only one article awarded four stars, representing less than half of the total stars; however, no study
achieved the maximum number of stars (12). The criteria
met least by the articles were ascertainment of exposure (4/
12) and assessment of outcomes (3/12), representing a
large source of bias in the studies included. The criteria in
which most articles were awarded a star were definition of
RRMI (12/12), which is directly related to the rates of
injury, and consequently to the predictive factors reported
[7, 37]; selection of the non-exposed cohort (12/12);
demonstration that outcome of interest was not present at
start of study (12/12), which is related to our inclusion
criteria; and follow-up long enough for outcomes to occur
(11/12), in this case we chose to use 12 weeks because we
understand that is a minimum period for an overuse injury
occur.
Even though the electronic search was conducted in the
main databases related to the sports-injuries field, it is
possible that eligible articles have been published in journals not indexed in any of the searched databases. We
found a great heterogeneity of statistical methods between
studies, which prevented us from performing a meta-analysis. All authors were contacted regarding the raw data of
the studies, but unfortunately most authors did not provide
these data. We extracted data from multivariable analysis,
123
B. T. Saragiotto et al.
since univariate analysis was not available in most of the
articles included. These inconsistencies among studies
complicate inter-study comparisons and prevent us from
confirming the relationship between all risk factors and
running injuries. In addition, relatively few prospective
studies were identified in this review, reducing the overall
ability to detect risk factors.
Despite the great amount of speculation and conflicting
results regarding running-related injuries, our findings
clarify the risk factors presented in the literature. Our
findings demonstrate that previous injury is an important
risk factor for running-related injuries. We suggest that
more attention is necessary for this factor. Researchers and
health professionals must understand the nature and clinical status of the previous injuries reported by runners. This
may provide insight into treatment plans for a subsequent
injury. Future prospective studies controlling for multiple
variables should consider the risk factors presented in this
systematic review when investigating running injuries.
5 Conclusion
The main risk factor identified in this review was previous
injury in the last 12 months, although many risk factors had
been investigated in the literature. Relatively few prospective studies were identified in this review, reducing the
overall ability to detect risk factors. This highlights the
need for more, well designed prospective studies in order to
fully appreciate the risk factors associated with running.
Acknowledgments Luiz Carlos Hespanhol Junior is a PhD student
supported by CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal
de Nı́vel Superior), Process Number 0763-12-8, Ministry of Education, Brazil. The other authors declare that they have no competing
interest and there is no funding involved in this study.
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