Descriptors used to define running-related musculoskeletal injury: a systematic review

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015 May;45(5):366-74. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2015.5750. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


Study design: Systematic review.

Objectives: To systematically review the descriptors used to define running-related musculoskeletal injury and to analyze the implications of different definitions on the results of studies.

Background: Studies have developed their own definitions of running-related musculoskeletal injuries based on different criteria. This may affect the rates of injury, which can be overestimated or underestimated due to the lack of a standard definition.

Methods: Searches were conducted in the Embase, PubMed, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, LILACS, and SciELO databases, without limits on date of publication and language. Only articles that reported a definition of running-related injury were included. The definitions were classified according to 3 domains and subcategories: (1) presence of physical complaint (symptom, body system involved, region), (2) interruption of training or competition (primary sports involved, extent of injury, extent of limitation, interruption, period of injury), and (3) need for medical assistance. Spearman rank correlation was performed to evaluate the correlation between the completeness of definitions and the rates of injury reported in the studies.

Results: A total of 48 articles were included. Most studies described more than half of the subcategories, but with no standardization between the terms used within each category, showing that there is no consensus for a definition. The injury rates ranged between 3% and 85%, and tended to increase with less specific definitions.

Conclusion: The descriptors commonly used by researchers to define a running-related injury vary between studies and may affect the rates of injuries. The lack of a standardized definition hinders comparison between studies and rates of injuries.

Keywords: jogging; lower extremity; sports; terminology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bones of Lower Extremity / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Leg Injuries* / classification
  • Leg Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Running / injuries*
  • Terminology as Topic*