Monday, November 1, 2010

Running news: are runners an insurance liability?

Published in the NY Times on 10/25, apparently marathon runners are not that great of an investment for health insurance companies because while our healthy lifestyle improves longevity and decreases disability, our propensity to injure ourselves is notable. The numbers being quoted sounded a little funny to me, and I wanted to know more.

The Times references two scientific articles, and I found the first published free online (Link 1) (Link 2) This article was a summary of other articles on injuries and suggested that 79% of long distance runners suffer injuries. What the Times forgot to mention (but the scientific authors did state) is that this is the upper limit of a range that spread from 20% to 79%. Furthermore, if you look at the type of injuries that were used to come up with these numbers, they included skin lesions (8-28%), cramps (3-20%), "not reported" (2-33%), "non-running injuries" (13-25%), and the dreaded pain and stiffness (44-80%). Oh no! Not pain and stiffness! The agony! Ankle sprains were 5% and "joint problems" were 1-22%. While this article did a good job of summarizing all the published data out there about injuries, the picture is far from clear as to how severe things are.

Anyway, I didn't much get the point of the Times article anyway. Perhaps it was just meant as a conversation piece about risks and benefits of long-distance running, but I think it overstates the risks, and despite the title, they didn't really interview any insurers who suggested they were changing how they insure runners based on the risk of injury.

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