Cumulative Trauma Drama

After I was caught sitting at my desk perched like a gargoyle on top of Notre Dame, my co-worker reminded my (again) that over time my body is going to hate me for my posture. I know how important it is to sit the right way and lift the right way, but I also know how easy it is to get into “the zone” and find yourself 4 hours later with a hunched back. So here’s some sobering info about Cumulative Trauma Disorders, (CTDs) to make sure we all check ourselves before it is too late.

CTDs are injuries incurred from repeated tasks, positions or behaviors that can morph from a pain in the neck to a crippling syndrome over a period of time. They make up over half of occupational diseases in this country and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was the cause of the most days away from work in 2011 (even beating out amputations)!

Common disorders are things like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Bursitis, Tendinitis or a multitude of other pains and strains. Look for numbness, pain, swelling, tingling and other pain or tenseness around joints. Compared to a specific injury like “I fell off a ladder and broke my foot”, the cause of these injuries is repetitive motion like, “I was a typist for 30 years and now it hurts to move my wrist”.

These can also be psychological traumas as well; repeated stress, shock or anxiety can cause long term problems to people like law enforcement workers or trauma doctors.

These injuries are tricky to diagnose, treat and compensate. Who is at fault? Was there an underlying disease that contributed to the condition too? What if the disease does not manifest until after the employee has stopped working?

These cases can sometimes go unreported, which makes it hard to track them for trends or forecasting. The injury could appear after the employee stops working, or they might not properly diagnose their work as the cause of the injury. It can be hard to establish a specific data of injury. If they are not currently on the company’s payroll they might not think it is worth reporting.

Obviously the worker has to be employed for some amount of time (you can’t call it quits after a week and expect your repetitive injury to be compensated). But many states specify a time limit for filing a claim after injury, for example Oklahoma is now one year after injury. This is a point of stress for many, since the exact data of injury is difficult to pin down and workers may run up against time constraints when they go to file a claim.

Should the case go to court, all of these factors make them very hard to defend. The employer has to prove the injury wasn’t caused by the workload, but by something else.

You might think an everyday activity is not going to hurt you, but in the long run these repetitive motions can cause an injury. We’ll leave you with a fun but informational play on a classic “I Love Lucy” clip that might make you think a little bit more about these disorders.

What's your take? Continue the discussion with others over at the WCInsights LinkedIn Group.
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