Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Work-related Injuries Among Radiation Therapists

Radiol Technol. 2020 May;91(5):414-421.


Purpose: To evaluate the prevalence of and risk factors associated with work-related musculoskeletal injuries among radiation therapists in the United States.

Methods: Approximately 16 000 radiation therapists were identified and electronically mailed a modified Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire. For inclusion in the analysis, participants were required to be actively employed during the preceding 12-month period and hold a current position as a radiation therapist. Descriptive statistics, univariate and multivariate analyses, and text analysis were performed to assess personal and work-related factors that correlated with injury risk.

Results: Contact was established with 5827 radiation therapists (contact rate, 37%). Of these, 2747 responded (cooperation rate, 47%), of which 1867 met inclusion criteria. Prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal injuries at 12 months was 76%, with the most common site-specific injury in the lumbar back (20%), followed by the neck (17%) and shoulders (15%). An incident rate of 33 injuries per 100 full-time equivalents per year was calculated. Multiple logistic regression analyses revealed the following variables to be significantly associated with increased injury risk: female sex, a body mass index of 30 or greater, and tobacco use. Daily exercise was associated with decreased risk. Patient transfers, body mechanics, and heavy lifting were the primary reported sources of injuries.

Discussion: Radiation therapists appear to be at considerable risk for work-related musculoskeletal injuries, which corresponds with findings of studies on health care employees. The high prevalence observed among radiation therapists (76%) is similarly high among nurses, and the increased risk for women also has been reported among physical therapists. Furthermore, other study results support obesity and tobacco use as risk factors and daily exercise as decreasing risk. In this study, most radiation therapists indicated interest in safety training courses, which could be addressed by involving national programs and competency requirements.

Conclusion: Further study is needed to address modifiable risk factors and implement interventions that reduce the high prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal injuries among radiation therapists. The results of such research might help decrease personal, societal, and radiation oncology practice-specific costs.

Keywords: musculoskeletal; radiation; therapist; work-related injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allied Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal System / injuries*
  • Occupational Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Radiotherapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States