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Obesity Prevalence and Musculoskeletal Injury History in Probation Officers


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 9 - p 1860–1865
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001996

Purpose The purpose of the present investigation was to identify 1) the prevalence of overweight and obesity and 2) factors associated with previous work-related musculoskeletal injury, and physical activity (PA) levels in North Carolina probation officers.

Methods North Carolina probation officers (N = 1866) were sent a questionnaire on demographics, work history, injury history, and PA. A multivariable logistic regression model estimated the odds of reporting work-related musculoskeletal injury history within the past year, and multivariable ordinal logistic regression estimated the odds of reporting lower PA levels in the previous month. Odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) excluding 1.00 were deemed significant.

Results Complete data were available for 1323 probation officers (70.9% completion rate; 46.5% female; mean ± SD age, 39.9 ± 10.0 yr). Officers that were classified as overweight and obese were 80.8% (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 25 kg·m−2), with 49.9% and 9.5% categorized as obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg·m−2) and severely obese (BMI ≥ 40 kg·m−2), respectively. Being older (1-yr increase; OR, 1.06; 95% CI, 1.04–1.09) and severely obese (compared to normally weighted; OR, 2.56; 95% CI, 1.19–5.51) was associated with a greater odds of sustaining a work-related musculoskeletal injury in the past year. A higher number of years of employment (1-yr increase; OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.01–1.04), being overweight or obese (compared to normal weight; OR, 1.57–3.22) and being female (compared with male: OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.31–0.47) was associated with the greater odds of lower PA levels in the previous month.

Conclusions The prevalence of obesity is alarmingly high in probation officers, and is associated with a greater likelihood of sustaining previous work-related musculoskeletal injury and engaging in lower amounts of PA. Public safety administrators may consider worksite exercise/diet interventions and annual physical employment standards to combat obesity.

1Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

2Human Movement Science Curriculum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

3Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

4Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

5Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Address for Correspondence: Eric D. Ryan, Ph.D., Department of Exercise and Sport Science Adjunct Associate Professor Allied Health Sciences University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 209 Fetzer Hall, CB 8700, Chapel Hill, NC 27599–8700; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2018.

Accepted for publication March 2019.

Online date: March 29, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine