Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health are teaming up with more than 20 high schools across Wisconsin this fall to study how certain risk factors contribute to running-related injuries in high school cross country runners.

The study, which will be conducted entirely online using surveys completed by the athletes, will be used to determine how weekly changes in running volume can contribute to running-related injuries and the degree to which stress, sleep duration and quality, and participation in other sports have on these types of injuries. Running-related injuries are defined as any musculoskeletal pain that occurs after participating in cross country practice or competition.

Mikel Joachim
Mikel Joachim

Youth participation in cross country running has increased significantly over the past several years, with nearly 500,000 boys and girls nationwide participating in high school cross country during the 2018-19 season. Research has also shown that 28-38% of high school runners will sustain at least one running-related injury during a season and that injury risk is related to running more miles per week. As a result, parents, coaches, and medical professionals are calling for evidence-based guidelines for safe running mileage (volume) for youth runners. Unfortunately, there is no research to date that describes either appropriate weekly running volume or how changes in running volume might increase a high schooler’s risk of injury. Sleep and stress are also known to influence injury risk in other sports but has never been studied in youth runners. This research team plans to change that.

“We hope the results of our study will educate coaches, players, and parents about safe training volumes and lifestyle changes that could prevent running-related injuries in high school cross country runners,” said Mikel Joachim, study coordinator and PhD candidate in clinical investigation at UW’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.  “By reducing the number of these types of injuries, we can help preserve the health and well-being of these young athletes as they transition from high school into an active adulthood.”

A minimum of 350 cross country runners from more than 20 Wisconsin high schools will take part in the study. All athletes under the age of 18 will need parental consent to participate. Participation in the study requires one pre-season survey and a daily survey throughout the season. The pre-season survey includes questions regarding current and prior sport participation, prior injuries and surgeries, dietary habits, and current levels of stress and fatigue. The daily survey will be texted or emailed to participants directly and should take less than two minutes to complete. The daily survey includes questions regarding running mileage, duration, and intensity; prior night’s sleep duration and quality; current levels of stress and fatigue; and any injuries they are currently experiencing.

Parents are encouraged to reach out to their high school’s athletic department to learn more about the research and how their kids can contribute to the study.

High schools participating in the study

Dane County and adjacent

  • Baraboo
  • DeForest
  • Edgewood
  • McFarland
  • Middleton
  • Stoughton
  • Sun Prairie
  • Waunakee

Fox Valley area

  • Bay Port
  • Kaukauna
  • Menasha
  • Manitowoc Lincoln
  • Ripon

Southwest

  • Boscobel
  • Darlington
  • Fennimore
  • Lancaster

Milwaukee

  • Cedarburg
  • Hamilton Sussex
  • Homestead
  • Oconomowoc
  • Wauwatosa East

Janesville

  • Elkhorn
  • Janesville Craig