The Return To Work Blog

The Crux of Cumulative Musculoskeletal Trauma

Posted by Sebastian Grasso on Apr 22, 2015 2:47:00 PM

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1. Objective vs. Subjective Injuries

In response to the “six figure eye roll” post, a couple of folks asked, “why do you think adjusters would rather not handle cumulative musculoskeletal trauma cases?”  My response to that question is, “For the same reason employers roll their eyes at them.” The reality is, there is a huge difference between these types of injuries.

  • Acute injuries are objective
  • Cumulative musculoskeletal trauma injuries are subjective

That means an employer can see an acute injury, it’s tangible, there was an accident. 

From the employers viewpoint a cumulative musculoskeletal trauma injury is not tangible, as there was no accident.

2. Falling From Great Heights May Be Required

Acute injuries are events and are not part of the workers job. I’ve yet to read a job description that says, ‘worker might lose digits while working on machine’ or ‘falling from great heights may be required.’ These are accidents and are what workers' compensation was created to cover.

  • Cumulative musculoskeletal trauma injuries don’t have specific events, they occur gradually over time and develop as a result of doing what is described in the job description.
  • These injuries are more like a sickness as a result of being exposed to a virus (risk factor) day in and day out.

The challenge for employers is that other co-workers are exposed to the same virus (risk factors) and they don’t get sick.

3. Difficult To Determine Compensabilty

Adjusters are left trying to manage a claim that is difficult to investigate and determine compensability, a suspicious employer questioning the claim and an injured worker that feels victimized for reporting something they believe is real.

The bottom line is that the two injuries behave differently because they are different.  To manage them effectively they need to be handled differently.

Most employers and insurers in the workers' compensation industry haven’t recognized that yet.

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Topics: Musculoskeletal Injuries

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