Workers’ Compensation In the News, Episode # 3: Even Super Heroes Get Hurt: What You Need to Know

Holy Cow Batwoman! Pow, Kabam! Ouch!

Ruby Rose, who played Batwoman, on the CW Television Show reported that she sustained two injuries while working on the program.

While wearing a latex Batwoman Mask, she developed an allergic reaction.  She also had an accident on the set which required back surgery. foxnew.com

Can An Allergic Reaction Be An Industrial Injury? 

Yes. Allergic reactions can be work-related injuries.  If so, the Injured Worker will receive medical treatment paid for by the insurance company as well as monetary compensation.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) is an inflammation of the skin caused by an immunologic reaction triggered by dermal contact to a skin allergen. For ACD to occur, a worker must be first sensitized to the allergen. Subsequent exposures of the skin to the allergenic agent may elicit an immunologic reaction resulting in inflammation of the skin. The reaction is not confined to the site of contact and may result in systemic responses. ACD may be caused by industrial compounds (i.e. metals, epoxy and acrylic resins, rubber additives, chemical intermediates), agrochemicals (i.e. pesticides and fertilizers), and commercial chemicals.

A common allergic reaction is latex allergies. Per the CDC, Latex Gloves have proved effective in preventing transmission of many infectious diseases. But for some workers, exposures to latex may result in allergic reactions. Reports of such reactions have increased in recent years–especially among Health Care Workers.

Can An Accident at Work Be An Industrial Injury? 

Yes. Workers’ Compensation is “no fault.”  Thus,  if Ruby Rose had hurt her back by an accidental trip, she would still be able to have a valid claim.  The claim would have paid for her back surgery, paid her compensation for her time off of work as well as provided her additional benefits.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

CALIFORNIA BACK INJURIES AND TREATMENT GUIDELINES: EVIDENCE BASED MEDICINE (EBM) AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION:  WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

California Workers’ Compensation has embraced Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) to dictate industrial medical care authorization.

Thus, when a EBM study is published, the Workers’ Compensation Community looks to its conclusions. The community looks to see the results are aligned with the Labor Code’s mandate to provide treatment to cure or relieve from the effects of an industrial injury.

Back Injury treatment was assessed in a recent EBM study.  They looked to see if  guidelines treatment achieved favorable results.  The results of such a study can shape both insurance company and medical office policy.

This article will discuss the study which looked at California back injury treatment in light of EBM-related guidelines.

What Is Evidence Based Medicine?

Evidence Based Medicine “…integrates medical research with clinical expertise and patient values to support decision making based on the best available evidence.” Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Wizner K, Hegmann K. Guideline adherence and lost workdays for acute low back pain in the California workers’ compensation system. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 17;16(6):e0253268. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253268. PMID: 34138937; PMCID: PMC8211224.

In other words, an Injured Worker’s treatment is geared more towards past research and study results. The Injured Worker’s treating physician’s clinical impressions are viewed as secondary. Thus, EBM-like treatment is provided in an algorithmic or formulaic fashion.

What Was the Study’s Purpose?

“The aim of this study was to determine the influence of adherence to guideline recommendations on lost workdays for workers with acute LBP(low back pain) claims in California’s WC system.” Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Wizner K, Hegmann K. Guideline adherence and lost workdays for acute low back pain in the California workers’ compensation system. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 17;16(6):e0253268. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253268. PMID: 34138937; PMCID: PMC8211224.

In other words, treatment currently can be in a number of modality forms.  Some are within guidelines, some treatment which is not recommended by guidelines and some others.  During an accepted claim, Injured Workers’ treatment are usually authorized.  Sometimes, authorized treatment can be ones that are outside of the guidelines.

What Is Guideline Treatment?   

Guideline treatment is based upon the “American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM)’s Low Back Disorders Practice Guideline was used as the source of guideline recommendations [16]. ACOEM’s treatment guidelines have been adopted in California’s Medical Treatment Utilization Schedule (MTUS), which determines what is reasonable and necessary medical care.” Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Wizner K, Hegmann K. Guideline adherence and lost workdays for acute low back pain in the California workers’ compensation system. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 17;16(6):e0253268. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253268. PMID: 34138937; PMCID: PMC8211224.

What Is the Criticism of the Study? 

The study did not look at every back condition.  The study limited itself to very specific back conditions.  Thus, the results are very limited.  The danger of such a study it will be interpreted to apply to back conditions that were not part of the study.

As noted in the study, “to focus on the treatment of uncomplicated LBP claims, claims were removed if they had an inpatient admission during the claim or a “red flag” diagnosis that may indicate treatment outside of guideline recommendations, such as fracture, cancer, infection, aortic aneurysm, and paralysis (S1 Table). Claims were excluded with stenosis diagnoses if they also had an accompanying surgical procedure (i.e., decompression, fusion, or adhesiolysis). Claims were also excluded if there had been a prior LBP claim to remove complicated clinical presentations due to LBP recurrences.” Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Wizner K, Hegmann K. Guideline adherence and lost workdays for acute low back pain in the California workers’ compensation system. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 17;16(6):e0253268. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253268. PMID: 34138937; PMCID: PMC8211224. [emphasis added]

Thus, the study should not be considered one that should be viewed in an expansive nature.   It was limited as many back problems were not addressed.  It only address uncomplicated back pain complaints.

What Did the Study Look at?

The workers were placed into categories concerning whether or not they received guideline treatment.   Likewise, there were categories in which they received no guideline treatment or no treatment at all. Gaspar FW, Thiese MS, Wizner K, Hegmann K. Guideline adherence and lost workdays for acute low back pain in the California workers’ compensation system. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 17;16(6):e0253268. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253268. PMID: 34138937; PMCID: PMC8211224.

What Were the Study’s Results?

The results of the study were that “[w]hen workers received guideline-recommended interventions, they typically returned to work in fewer days. The majority of workers received at least one non-recommended intervention, demonstrating the need for adherence to guideline recommendations. Fewer lost workdays and improved quality care are outcomes that strongly benefit injured workers.”

The other result of interest was that “workers who received either no intervention or other medical interventions experienced more favorable outcomes than those who received non-recommended interventions”  This result suggests that alternative treatment or no treatment is better than non-recommended interventions.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

HEALTH CARE WORKERS, SOCIAL SERVICES WORKERS, AND CALIFORNIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Work injuries are often studied based upon sector and occupation. Studies can impact how workers are trained and treated.  Health Care Workers and Social Assistance Workers were recently studied in the article “Occupational Injuries in California Health Care and Social Assistance Industry”  2009 to 2018.”  Kerri Wizner, Fraser W. Gaspar, Adriane Biggio, Steve Wiesner 06 June 2021 https: //doi.org/10.1002/hsr2.306

The study addressed a large variety of health care occupations including nurse, aides, assistances, service staff, administrative staff, and technicians. The study looked at the different healthcare facilities including hospitals, residential care sites, and social services providers.

The article will discuss the study’s data, conclusions and impact on Health Care Workers.

What Was the Study’s Purpose?

The study looked at injury prevention workforce health, and injury-related cost savings. Supra.

Thus, a typical risk management agenda was addressed.  In short, questions such as “what facilities have problems with work injuries?”, “what occupations have problems with work injuries?”, and “what type of work activities cause work injuries?” are addressed.

What Are the Injury Rates of Import in the Health Care and Services Fields?

Sex: Women sustain the majority of work injuries.   The data showed that “the majority of injuries were sustained by women (78.1%), with three-quarters of cases affecting individuals aged 32 to 53 years.”  Supra.  Note: This may relate to two factors.  A greater amount of women working in the field.  Also, women may have greater physical challenges of dealing with large or immobile patients.  As noted in the study, lifting was found to be a significant source of injury.

Facilities:  The injury rates differed in each industry subgroups.   Hospitals had the highest number of claims with Ambulatory Care, second, Nursing Care, third. The Social Assistance Group had the least claims.  Supra. Note: Hospitals are often less specialized that nursing care facilities.  Thus, there are more tasks and more activities performed in a non-ergonomic fashion in a hospital.  Likewise, there may be far more activity. Thus, the data is logical.

Occupation: Health care and social assistance settings each have a different proportion of job types, given the variety of health services offered. … Across all settings within California, nurses had the highest proportion of injuries (22.1%), followed by aides/assistants (20.4%), services staff (13.2%), administrative staff (11.0%), and technicians (10.3%). The highest proportion of injury occurred in nursing jobs in hospitals (32.2% vs 3.2%-20.6%), aides/assistants in nursing/residential care sites (40.2% vs 12.1%-16.7%), and social services in social assistance settings (40.6% vs 3.2%-8.0%).”  Supra. Note: This finding is not surprising as the largest percentage of injuries are reported within the most physically challenged positions.

Types of Injuries: There was an analysis of the types of Injuries reported. The study reported “[s]trains and tears (defined by the State of California as an injury of the muscle or the musculotendinous unit13), were the most common injury, representing 34.4% of all claims, followed by contusions (11.0%), sprains (injury to ligaments) (10.0%), other specific injuries (9.6%), and puncture wounds (7.7%). These injury types were similar across the industry sub-groups apart from ambulatory care, which had a higher proportion of puncture wounds than other settings (14.1% vs 3.4%-5.9%, respectively).”  Note: Most of the injuries were of a musculoskeletal nature.  The other concern in the healthcare setting is puncture wounds which can be caused by sharps and needles.

Activities Causing Injury: There was an analysis concerning what activities caused the work injuries.  The study found “[a]cross all settings, lifting injuries (10.8%) and strains NOC (9.1%) were the most common causes of injury, followed by miscellaneous NOC causes (6.6%), repetitive motion (6.0%), and injury due to being struck accidentally or on purpose by a fellow worker, patient, or other person (5.9%).”

Parts of the Body Injured:  There are an analysis concerning which body parts were most frequently injury.  Per the study, ”[t]he low back was the most frequently injured body part, representing 13.6% of all claims; followed by multiple body parts (12.8%), finger(s) (9.1%), shoulder(s) (6.8%), and knee(s) (6.1%). Nursing/residential care settings reported the highest proportion of both lifting injuries (15.8% vs 8.9%-9.9%) and low back injuries (16.9% vs 10.0%-13.1%) as compared to the other settings.” [emphasis added] Note: Most body parts injured are within the musculoskeletal systems.

Ambulatory care:

The rates for ambulatory care employee injuries were found to be increasing. Supra.  Note: Ambulatory care relates to outpatient centers.   Many hospital patients are moved to rehabilitation centers to begin the rehabilitation process.  These settings can require patients to begin performing physical activities in a weakened state.  Thus, there are significant injury risks for assisting workers.

What May Result from This Study?

The main findings were the high rates of injury in both the hospital setting as well as for ambulatory care employees.    Extra safety and training measures may likely be implemented to lower the injury rates with the setting and within the employee class.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

THE “STRAIGHT LEG” TEST: INJURED WORKERS BEING EXAMINED FOR WORK INJURIES AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Injured Workers are both evaluated and treated within the Workers’ Compensation System for their work-related complaints.  Workers suffering from back injuries will be physically examined in order to determine a proper diagnosis.

Lumbar Spine Physical Examinations require that the physician or examiner perform a variety of physical tests.  One of these tests is the “straight leg.”

This article will discuss the “straight leg” test, what it means for a back condition, and what it means for Industrially Injured Workers.

Who Conducts Lumbar Spine Physical Examinations?

Physical Examinations are done by medical professionals in the capacity of Treaters,  Qualified Medical Evaluators, and Agreed Medical Evaluators.

Specialties conducting physical examinations for the spine may include Chiropractors, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Nurse Practitioners, Occupational Medicine Doctors, Orthopedic Surgeons, Physical Medicine Doctors, Physician Assistants, Osteopaths, Primary Care Physicians, and Sports Medicine Doctors.

What is the Common Back Complaint Relevant to the “Straight Leg” Test?

The common back complaint, relevant to the straight leg test, is back pain which radiates down one or both lower extremities.  The symptoms can include numbness in the lower extremities.

Are There Other Names for the” Straight Leg” Test?

Yes. The straight leg test has different names.   This includes the names “Lasegue Test” and the “Straight Leg Raise Test.”

How is the Straight Leg Test Performed?

“The straight leg raise test is performed with the patient in a supine position. The examiner gently raises the patient’s leg by flexing the hip with the knee in extension, and the test is considered positive when the patient experiences pain along the lower limb in the same distribution of the lower radicular nerve roots (usually L5 or S1).” Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

In sum, when an Injured Worker is sitting, the examiner will take the worker’s leg and raise it upward.

What Makes a Positive Straight Leg Test?

“[A] positive straight leg raise test is determined when pain is elicited by lower limb flexion at an angle lower than 45 degrees. During the test, if the pain is reproduced during the leg straightening, patients usually request that the examiner aborts the maneuver and by flexing the patient’s knee, the buttock pain is usually relieved(Figure 1).”  Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

Based upon a review of many medical reports, I have seen Injured Workers have positive straight leg findings with one examiner and not with others.  Thus, in my opinion there is some variability concerning results.

What Is the Aim of the Straight Leg Test?

The straight leg test may indicate whether there is a “sciatic compromise due to lumbosacral nerve root irritation.” Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

It should be noted, however, that “there are multiple causes of a positive test such as facet joint cyst or hypertrophy.” Camino Willhuber GO, Piuzzi NS. Straight Leg Raise Test. [Updated 2021 Feb 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539717/

If the Test is Positive, What Will Happen?

If a test is positive, there is the possibility of nerve root irritation and possible entrapment.  The positive straight leg test is simply the beginning of the process of making a comprehensive diagnosis.  Thus, the Injured Worker may be requested to participate in additional testing which can include MRI testing, CT scans, X-Rays, and Nerve Conduction Studies.

In sum, a positive finding suggests the need for additional testing to rule out a herniated disc.

What Does a Positive Straight Leg Test Mean for Injured Workers?

For Injured Workers, a positive straight leg test will trigger the examiner to consider ruling out the possibility of a herniated disc injury in the lumbar spine. Thus, a thorough assessment will require additional testing to occur via imaging studies and nerve testing. A positive test may trigger a referral to an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

What You Need To Know About Back Surgery, Return To Work, & Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation Medical Studies have been done on many topics.   Studies have reported on surgeries performed within the workers’ compensation environment.  Some studies have looked examined spinal surgeries.

Study results impact Injured Workers.  Studies results can create insurance Company expectations concerning surgery success and recovery times.   Insurance Company expectations from these studies can be imposed upon treating doctors concerning temporary and permanent disability.

This article will discuss back surgery, a study concerning back surgery, the back surgery study’s results. and what the study means for injured workers.

What Is Back Surgery?

The Spine has three segments: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar.  The lumbar segment of the spine is usually referred to as back or low back.  Back surgeries are generally on the area referred to as the lumbar spine.   There are various types of surgeries.   There are surgeries to address lumbar spine disks and there are other procedures that address the stability of the spine.   Common surgeries are laminectomies, fusions and disc replacement.

Besides the problems being operated on, there is also issue of levels.   The lumbar spine has multiple levels.   Some surgeries operate on one level and others involve multiple levels.

There are a variety of reasons why a particular surgery may be indicated.  This article will be addressing one of the reasons. A surgery to address a herniated lumbar disk. Specifically, a surgery to address a disk at only one level.   This procedure is called a laminectomy.

Why Is Back Surgery a Significant Workers’ Compensation Issue?

Back Surgeries are expensive.T they cause periods of temporary disability and may result in findings of permanent disability.   Back Surgeries can have complications that can be costly such as treatment for post-operative infections.  Thus, Insurance Companies, in a risk management analysis, may wish to prevent surgery liability by either denying the treatment or settling the case.

What Were the Study’s Results?

The study addressed focused only on a single-level lumbar disk herniation surgery.

According to the study, “[p]atients receiving WC(workers; compensation) with shorter duration of radiculopathy before diskectomy had higher RTW(return to work) rates; fewer physical therapy, chiropractic, and psychotherapy sessions; and fewer postoperative diagnoses of psychological illnesses.”  Ren BO, O’Donnell JA, Anderson JT, Haas AR, Percy R, Woods ST, Ahn UM, Ahn NU. Time to Surgery Affects Return to Work Rates for Workers’ Compensation Patients With Single-Level Lumbar Disk Herniation. Orthopedics. 2021 Jan 1;44(1):e43-e49. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20201202-06. Epub 2020 Dec 7. PMID: 33284984.

The study found that “within 12 weeks of injury, post-diskectomy patients do reasonably well, with a 70.0% (95% CI, 65.9%–74.1%) rate of RTW.”

The study also found that “[o]n the other hand, if a patient waited more than 2 years to have surgery for radiculopathy, RTW(return to work) rates decreased as low as 31.3% (95% CI, 26.3%–36.3%).” Ren BO, O’Donnell JA, Anderson JT, Haas AR, Percy R, Woods ST, Ahn UM, Ahn NU. Time to Surgery Affects Return to Work Rates for Workers’ Compensation Patients With Single-Level Lumbar Disk Herniation. Orthopedics. 2021 Jan 1;44(1):e43-e49. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20201202-06. Epub 2020 Dec 7. PMID: 33284984.

Note: the study’s results are confounding to Insurance Companies.  The study suggests that acting promptly to approve a surgery can lead to more promising results.   The study implies that a long drawn out battle for a back surgery can result in a poor result.  Thus, acting quickly and spending a considerable amount of money for treatment leads to a better result in this circumstance.  Thus, these types of cases are a true test for Adjusters.

Was There Anything Else Interesting from the Study?

Irrespective of surgery, the factors of  legal representation, psychological co-morbidity and mean household income can negatively impact return to work. Ren BO, O’Donnell JA, Anderson JT, Haas AR, Percy R, Woods ST, Ahn UM, Ahn NU. Time to Surgery Affects Return to Work Rates for Workers’ Compensation Patients With Single-Level Lumbar Disk Herniation. Orthopedics. 2021 Jan 1;44(1):e43-e49. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20201202-06. Epub 2020 Dec 7. PMID: 33284984.

Is There Anything an Injured Worker Should Do?

Injured Workers with spinal problems should get appropriate medical care at the onset of injury. In the case of severe back pain and in cases with radiculopathy, they should seek out an orthopedic surgeon to have their condition assessed.

Per the study, if surgery is truly indicated, surgery it suggests that it be done promptly. Each individual’s medical condition and recovery, however, is different. Thus, the treatment course should be done on an individual basis and not per a study.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

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