Purpose To examine the frequency, distribution and determinants of a change in recovery expectations following non-life threatening acute orthopaedic trauma to Victorian workers. It is proposed that interventions to modify recovery expectations may reduce the burden associated with injury. However, it is not known whether recovery expectations change over time or the factors that are associated with change. Methods A prospective inception cohort study was carried out in which participants were recruited following presentation to hospital for treatment of their injury and followed for 6 months post-injury. Baseline data was obtained by survey and medical record review. Binary logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with a change in recovery expectations between week 2 and week 12 post-injury. Results The cohort comprised injured workers (n = 145) who had sustained nonlife threatening acute orthopaedic trauma. Factors associated with an improvement in recovery expectations or recovery timeframe included more years of education and higher social functioning. Participants whose injury involved a perception of responsibility by a third party were 7.18 (95 CI 1.86-27.68) times more likely to change their recovery expectations to more negative expectations and less likely to change to an earlier recovery timeframe. Participants with more severe injuries were more likely to change their recovery timeframe to a longer timeframe. Conclusion Change in recovery expectations provide some information on injured workers who may benefit from targeted interventions to improve or maintain recovery expectations. The post-injury time-point at which recovery expectations are measured is important if recovery expectations are to inform long-term outcomes.