On-duty Injuries Among Ohio Law Enforcement Officers

Posted on by Hope M. Tiesman PhD, Srinivas Konda MPH, Steven J. Wurzelbacher PhD, Steven J. Naber PhD, Wesley R. Attwood Dr.CJ

Law enforcement officers (LEOs) face many workplace hazards. Current research does not include a complete picture of nonfatal injuries that officers sustain while on-duty. Workers’ compensation (WC) data are an underutilized source for occupational injury surveillance in the law enforcement field. A recently published research article explored patterns and characteristics of workers’ compensation injury claims over a 19-year period among LEOs in Ohio. Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health collaborated with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to conduct the study, which provided valuable insights into the occupational health and safety challenges faced by LEOs.

Key Study Insights

Trends of Claims and Claimant Demographics

From 2001 to 2019, there were a total of 50,793 identified WC claims among Ohio LEOs. The majority of the total claims (88%) were from male officers and 92% were from those aged 25−54 years.

Seventy‐five percent of WC claims were from a LEO with more than one claim, and of these, 34% were from a LEO with five or more claims during the study period. This is different from other workers. Among non‐LEO WC claims, 55% were from a worker with more than one claim. And of these, 22% were from a worker who had five or more claims.

This finding needs further examination. This study did not examine the nature of these additional claims, but future analyses will determine if these claims were another injury of the same body part or an unrelated claim for another occupational injury or illness. This information could change rehab and re-entry procedures.

pie chart with the injury events of Ohio LEOs with a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Injury Event of Ohio LEOs with a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Leading Injury Events

Injury Event of Ohio LEOs with a Workers’ Compensation Claim

The majority of all claims resulted from:

  • violence and other injuries by persons or animals (34%),
  • falls/slips/trips (18%), and
  • transportation incidents (16%).

Violence was also a leading cause of lost-time claims (29%).

When looking at injuries by age, for LEOs aged 21−54 years, violence was the leading cause for a WC claim. However, for LEOs older than 55 years of age, falls/slips/trips were the leading cause of a WC claim.

This study’s finding that violence‐related injuries remain a significant issue for LEOs is similar to other research.[1] These results could assist in the development or improvement of current workplace injury prevention strategies for LEOs. Specifically, efforts towards a better understanding and prevention of violence‐related injuries and musculoskeletal injuries should be made.

Injury Diagnoses

Overall, 41% of all LEO WC claims included a sprain and 17% included a contusion (bruise). More specifically, the two leading injury diagnoses were upper extremity strains (12%) and lower extremity sprains (11%). Sprains, contusions, open wounds, and superficial injuries were more commonly medical-only claims, whereas sprains and musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases were commonly lost-time claims.

Although this study could not always determine the specific work task at the time of injury, other research has reported that officers commonly incur sprains and strains while chasing, detaining, arresting, or pursuing suspects.[2] Other activities that can lead to occupational sprains include running, jumping, climbing, repetitive movements like handcuffing, prolonged equipment operation, and working in challenging environmental conditions such as uneven terrain and adverse weather.

Research suggests that higher levels of physical fitness are associated with a reduced risk of musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains, among LEOs.[3] Law enforcement agencies could consider implementing exercise programs, providing athletic trainers, or supporting officers working out in personal capacities to support LEOs in maintaining their physical fitness, enabling them to safely carry out their duties and better serve their communities. Physical fitness programs have shown potential benefits in preventing injuries and reducing costs related to injury treatment, time loss, and labor.[4] Preventing loss of labor is especially important to law enforcement as considerable growth in the U.S. population has resulted in a greater ratio of residents to officers. And many agencies are serving larger communities with fewer resources.[5]

Ohio Solutions

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation offers Safety Intervention Grants to assist law enforcement agencies (and other Ohio employers) to purchase equipment to enhance worker safety. Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation also offers the Better You, Better Ohio program, which offers health and wellness resources and services to workers from small employers (250 employees or fewer). The Ohio Attorney General also offers the Law Enforcement Body Armor (OLEBA) Grant Program to assist eligible law enforcement organizations to purchase new body armor or to replace outdated equipment worn by officers to reduce officer injuries. Future research could focus on examining the effectiveness of these grants and resultant programs and purchased equipment on occupational injury prevalence.

These findings underscore the importance of tailored injury prevention strategies and highlight the need for continued research to ensure the well-being and safety of this vital workforce.


Hope M. Tiesman, PhD, is a Research Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research. 

Srinivas Konda, MPH, is an epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research 

Steven J. Wurzelbacher, PhD, is Manager of the NIOSH Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.

Steven J. Naber, PhD, is a Business Intelligence & Analytics Manager in the Information Technology Division of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Wesley R. Attwood Dr.CJ, is a Public Health Advisor in the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory and Public Safety Program.


Hope M. Tiesman PhDSrinivas Konda MPHSteven J. Wurzelbacher PhDSteven J. Naber PhDWesley R. Attwood Dr.CJ


[1] US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Law enforcement officers killed and assaulted (LEOKA). Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2022. Accessed April 17, 2023. https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/more-fbi-services-and-information/ucr/leoka

[2] Tiesman HM, Konda S, Grieco J, Gwilliam M, Rojek J, Montgomery B. Resistance-related injuries among law enforcement officers: addressing the empirical gap. Am J Prev Med. 2020; 59(6): e231-e238.

[3] Lentz L, Randall JR, Guptill CA, Gross DP, Senthilselvan A, Voaklander D. The association between fitness test scores and musculoskeletal injury in police officers. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019; 16(23): 4667.

[4] Rossomanno CI, Herrick JE, Kirk SM, Kirk EP. A 6-month supervised employer-based minimal exercise program for police officers improves fitness. J Strength Cond Res. 2012; 26(9): 2338-2344.

[5] International Association of Chiefs of Police. The state of recruitment: a crisis for law enforcement. Alexandria, VA: International Association of Chiefs of Police. 2020. Accessed October 25, 2023. https://www.theiacp.org/sites/default/files/239416_IACP_RecruitmentBR_HR_0.pdf

Posted on by Hope M. Tiesman PhD, Srinivas Konda MPH, Steven J. Wurzelbacher PhD, Steven J. Naber PhD, Wesley R. Attwood Dr.CJ

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Page last reviewed: November 27, 2023
Page last updated: November 27, 2023