The Industrial Athlete: How to Prevent Ergonomic Injury

DID YOU KNOW that injuries are the leading cause of mortality and loss of potential years of life for working individuals?

OSHA estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the United States account for over 600,000 injuries and illnesses. This is 34% of all lost workdays reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is a costly problem, these disorders actually account for 1 out of every 3 dollars spent on workers’ compensation. It is estimated that employers spend as much as $20 billion a year on direct costs for musculoskeletal-related workers’ compensation, and up to five times that much for indirect costs, such as those associated with hiring and training replacement workers.

Ergonomic Injury
An ergonomic injury is pain and dysfunction due to awkward static postures especially with stress, force, repetition, or pressure.   Ergonomic injuries include a wide range of inflammatory and degenerative conditions affecting the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, peripheral nerves, and supporting blood vessels.

The purpose of ergonomics is to give the body the best biomechanical advantage to improve leverage and reduce friction, reduce wasteful motions, prevent fatigue, increase productivity, and contribute to time and money savings through improvement of quality and speed. One of the most advantageous results of ergonomics in the workplace is decreased injury rates and employee turn over.

Our bodies are designed to move. As we move within the workplace, our bodies should be primed for movement and our workspace should allow adequate space and area to move without harm to the body. With poor posture and mindless intentions in the workplace, employees run the risk of suffering from ergonomic injury.

Primary Risk Factors of Ergonomic Injury:

  1. Awkward postures and prolonged static postures
  2. Grip, pinch, push/pull, carry forces that are high for prolonged periods of time
  3. Repetitive activities with high frequency over time
  4. Contact Stress from compressive forces or sustained pressure from the work environment
  5. Vibration, segmental or whole body vibration over time with a high frequency and amplitude

Evidence-Based Approach
To prevent ergonomic injury, or musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace, it’s important to have an ergonomic assessment done and to practice proper posture biomechanics in the workplace.

The integration of ergonomic design is an evidence-based approach to injury prevention of industrial athletes.

  1. Core Strength and Proper Posture is Fundamental for Workers:
    Current research suggests that decreased core strength may contribute to injuries of the back and extremities, that training may decrease musculoskeletal damage, and that core stability can be tested using functional movement methods. Furthermore, improvements in core or static strength, flexibility and the three dimensions of movement: acceleration; deceleration; and dynamic stabilization (the ability to maintain a stable posture while moving) have been proposed as additional injury prevention possibility.These findings suggest that core strength and functional movement enhancement programs to prevent injuries in workers whose work involves awkward positions is warranted (Peate et al., 2007).
  2. Work-Related Ergonomic Injury Programs Prevent Injuries
    Musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace cause thousands of injuries and cost industry billions of dollars yearly. Work injury prevention programs have been developed and implemented as a means to reduce costs associated with employee injuries.Positive outcomes were associated with programs that had high compliance and that used job-specific education and training approaches (Gatty et al., 2003).
  3. Return on Investment of 179% with Back Injury Prevention
    Back-related injuries have become a major health problem in the workplace, affecting as many as 35% of the work force and accounting for about 25% of all compensation claims. This study evaluates a back injury prevention program among employees in a northern California.The results showed an overall decline in back pain prevalence rates with significant improvement in satisfaction and reduction in risky behaviors. Cost benefit analysis showed the net benefit of introducing a back injury prevention program was $161,108, and the return on investment is 179% (Shi, 1993)!
  4. Less Pain, Discomfort, and Pyschosocial Stress with Ergonomics
    The incidence of musculoskeletal injuries associated with computer use is increasing. Education has been advocated as a prevention method for reducing the incidence and severity of these injuries.Those who received education reported less pain/discomfort and psychosocial work stress following the intervention than those who did not receive education.  Those workers in the participatory education intervention group reported a significantly better perception of their health status than those in the control group or the traditional education group (Bohr, 2000).
  5. 5 Year Follow Up Shows Less Injuries and Lost Workdays
    The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of an ergonomic program on perceived stress ratings, injury rates and patient care. After implementation of the ergonomic program, the perceived stress ratings were lower and the patients felt more comfortable and secure during patient handling tasks.

Eighteen months after ergonomic interventions, the back and shoulder injuries were reduced, and the lost workdays and restricted/transitional days were decreased. Five years after the implementation, the back and shoulder injuries continued to decrease as well as the lost workdays and restricted days (Owen et al., 2002).

Ergonomics is a must for modern-day industrial athletes. How you move your body at work and how your environment supports good postural habits are important for career longevity.

You can help your patients lead a happy and healthy life by teaching them the importance of ergonomic awareness and good posture in the workplace. Remember, what your patients do outside of your office is as important as what they do during their postural correction treatments.

Education starts with you, the industrial athlete needs your expertise to thrive within their work environment. Make it your priority to become the Go-To Ergonomic Expert in your community.


Bohr, P. C. (2000). Efficacy of office ergonomics education. Journal of occupational rehabilitation10(4), 243-255.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work. Retrieved from:

Gatty, C. M., Turner, M., Buitendorp, D. J., & Batman, H. (2003). The effectiveness of back pain and injury prevention programs in the workplace. Work20(3), 257-266.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): National Occupation Research Agenda. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH; 1996.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2014) Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders.

Owen, B. D., Keene, K., & Olson, S. (2002). An ergonomic approach to reducing back/shoulder stress in hospital nursing personnel: a five year follow up. International journal of nursing studies39(3), 295-302.

Peate, W. F., Bates, G., Lunda, K., Francis, S., & Bellamy, K. (2007). Core strength: a new model for injury prediction and prevention. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology2(1), 3.

Punnett, L., & Wegman, D. H. (2004). Work-related musculoskeletal disorders: the epidemiologic evidence and the debate. Journal of electromyography and kinesiology14(1), 13-23.

Shi, L. (1993). A cost-benefit analysis of a California county’s back injury prevention program. Public health reports108(2), 204.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Start typing and press Enter to search