Much of the medical and ergonomic research on Cumulative Trauma Disorders is focused on Medical and Disability cost savings through administrative remedies. But these efforts rarely strike at the root variables of the cost equation – How the employee injured themselves in the first place. Why do seemingly innocuous injuries like tendonitis, muscle strains, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome wind up costing so much in medical and indemnity? And more importantly, what can be done to prevent these costs within the workers’ compensation system? The answer lies much farther upstream than current and past reform measures address. The answer lies in addressing the root cause of the claim early in the claims administration process.
A recent study published in The American Journal of Industrial Medicine sheds some light on the problem. In this study, the authors found some alarming statistics in reviewing the carpal tunnel cases of over 13,000 subjects. They found that 63% of claimants with a carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis went off work on paid total temporary disability. Of those that went off on paid disability, about half were off for greater than 3 months and a quarter of them were off on paid disability for greater than a year!! We all know how quickly those disability payments can add up - frustrating employers, insurers, and adjustors alike. It’s no wonder then that the time off work and concomitant disability costs of cumulative trauma disorders such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome dwarf the next leading injury event or exposure.