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Early Predictors of Occupational Back Re-Injury: Results from a Prospective Study of Workers in Washington State
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  • Description:
    Study Design

    Prospective population-based cohort study


    To identify early predictors of self-reported occupational back re-injury within 1 year after work-related back injury

    Summary of Background Data

    Back injuries are the costliest and most prevalent disabling occupational injuries in the United States. A substantial proportion of workers with back injuries have re-injuries after returning to work, yet there are few studies of risk factors for occupational back re-injuries.


    We aimed to identify the incidence and early (in the claim) predictors of self-reported back re-injury by approximately 1 year after the index injury among Washington State workers with new work disability claims for back injuries. The Washington Workers’ Compensation Disability Risk Identification Study Cohort (D-RISC) provided a large, population-based sample with information on variables in seven domains: sociodemographic, employment-related, pain and function, clinical status, health care, health behavior, and psychological. We conducted telephone interviews with workers 3 weeks and 1 year after submission of a time-loss claim for the injury. We first identified predictors (p-values < 0.10) of self-reported re-injury within 1 year in bivariate analyses. Those variables were then included in a multivariate logistic regression model predicting occupational back re-injury.


    290 (25.8%) of 1,123 (70.0% response rate) workers who completed the one-year follow-up interview and had returned to work reported having re-injured their back at work. Baseline variables significantly associated with re-injury (p-value < 0.05) in the multivariate model included male gender, constant whole body vibration at work, a history of previous similar injury, 4 or more previous claims of any type, possessing health insurance, and high fear-avoidance scores. Baseline obesity was associated with reduced odds of re-injury. No other employment-related or psychological variables were significant.


    One-fourth of workers who received work disability compensation for a back injury self-reported re-injury after returning to work. Baseline variables in multiple domains predicted occupational back re-injury. Increased knowledge of early risk factors for re-injury may help lead to interventions, such as efforts to reduce fear-avoidance and graded activity to promote recovery, effective in lowering the risk of re-injury.

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  • Funding:
    R01 OH004069/OH/NIOSH CDC HHS/United States
    T32 AR049710/AR/NIAMS NIH HHS/United States
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