A large aspect of athletic training focuses on prevention. Knowledge of what increases risk of injury or illness is essential to preventing these events. Characteristics that contribute to predicting future outcomes are called prognostic factors. Predictors of adverse events are called risk factors. Risk can increase due to intrinsic factors, such as gender or body composition, or extrinsic factors, such as environment or equipment.
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In epidemiology, relative risk (RR) is the ratio of the probability of developing a disorder when exposed to a certain condition (risk factor), vs the risk of developing a disorder when not exposed to a risk factor. The RR of a condition can range from zero to infinity and is compared to a reference group, which has an RR of 1. Prospective longitudinal cohort studies collect data at baseline
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When treating patients, it is helpful to know the predictors of recovery. The clinician’s understanding of effect size and numbers needed to treat (NNT) can assist him or her in knowing how likely a treatment is to be effective.
A prognosis is the prior knowledge of the outcome of a condition, injury, or disease. A prognostic factor influences the chance of recovery from a condition or the chance of it recurring. These factors can be situational, conditional, or a patient characteristic. Often, many prognostic factors can assist the clinician in predicting the patient outcome. Some may be related to the injury or condition itself. For example, one can make return-to-play estimations based upon the severity of the injury, knowing that more severe injuries take longer to heal. However, other factors are related to the patient, such as age, gender, compliance to treatment, etc. Factors can be favorable, and lead to improved outcomes, or poor, and lead to decreased outcomes.
There is a difference between risk factors and prognostic factors. Risk factors are associated with causing the condition, whereas prognostic factors are those that influence the outcome. Therefore, risk factors are determined by examining the new cases, but prognostic factors are established by tracking and following up with those who have already suffered from the condition.9
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