What are the main risk factors for running related injuries?


Some of our Elves are preparing to participate in this years 5×50 challenge and are keen to avoid injury to their (relatively) wee legs. They asked – what are the main risk factors for running related injuries and how can we avoid these?

Well here is a review from the Sports Medicine journal that looks at this very subject!

Here’s what they did

The authors searched Embase, PubMed, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, LILACS and SCIELO up to December 2012 for prospective cohort studies investigating risk factors for running related injuries.

They excluded articles studying risk factors for a specific injury, where running was only part of the sport (e.g. triathlon), those looking at only at injured runners or the effectiveness of interventions/prevention programmes. Risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle Ottawa scale for cohort studies.

Here’s what they found

Out of 6,042 articles, 11 full papers were included in the review studying a total of 4671 participants. The population included novice and habitual runners involved in recreational running, marathon training and cross country. Although sixty different risk factors were identified, just 10 were investigated in at least five papers. These were:

  • Previous injury within the last 12 months (n = 5 studies)
  • Weekly training distance greater than 64km  (n = 2 studies)
  • Weekly training frequency (n = 2) studies. This varied between 3-7 times per week for men and 7 times per week for women.
  • Higher quadriceps angle of the knee (Q angle) (n = 2 studies)

The authors concluded

Previous injury is an important risk factor for running related injuries…Researchers and health professionals must understand the nature and clinical status of the previous injuries reported by runners.


Previous injuries are an important risk factor that needs to be borne in mind.

The Musculoskeletal Elf’s view

The Musculoskeletal Elf

Although the number of studies included in this review was small, the findings support the theory that running injuries are often associated with overuse. It also highlights the importance of addressing previous injuries that may predispose the runner to further problems.

The reviewers decision to restrict inclusion to prospective cohort studies only, may have adversely affected the results of the the final review. There is a need for more high quality studies looking at this area.

Meanwhile our keen Elf colleagues have been encouraged to continue with their training, avoiding overuse, and to make sure any old injuries have been fully rehabilitated before they participate in this years challenge. Good luck to all who take part!

What do you think?

  • Are these the risks you would have expected?
  • How often is too often when training?

Send us your views on this blog and become part of the ever expanding Musculoskeletal Elf community. Post your comment below, or get in touch via social media (FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+).


Saragiotto, B.T., Yamato, T.P., Hespanhol,  L.C., Rainbow, M.J., Davis, I.S., Lopes, A.D. 2014, What are the main risk factors for running-related injuries?, Sports Medicine, Vol 44, no.8, pp.1153-1163

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