How do shoulder injuries affect transitional duty?
Recently Dr. Dave was asked to provide some information about shoulder injuries, a fairly common workplace injury, and how this type of injury may affect transitional duty.
Dr. Dave says: The shoulder has a larger range of motion than any other joint in the body and as such, is highly susceptible to instability and injury. (There are even wall paintings in Egyptian tombs showing accurate drawings of how to reduce a dislocated shoulder.) One of the most common shoulder injuries we see in the workplace is the rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles attached to the shoulder blade and the upper humerus. Tears in the tendons are called rotator cuff tears.
The first key point is there is a typical sequence of injuries leading up to a tear. Tendonitis is the mildest form. This can progress to bursitis, which can ultimately lead to a tear, which often requires surgery. This happens more easily with age and degenerative arthritis, often by bone spurs rubbing on the tendons.
The second key point is recognizing rehabilitating a shoulder after surgery takes considerably longer than most people realize. Rehabilitation may often take up to six months and sometimes longer before normal function is regained. Because this is so, don’t be too impatient and order an IME every four or five weeks or assume a worker is not trying hard enough to get better because normal function does not return as quickly as everyone would like.
So, find a transitional duty assignment to accommodate the injured employee while recuperation takes place and remember, most likely it will be a little longer than you expected.
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David Dubin, MD. is an emergency room physician who serves as a medical advisor for several companies. Formerly president of Aon Medical Consultants, he has been helping employers and insurance companies develop innovative cost containment programs and reduce workers comp costs for over 20 years. He can be reached at: MD@WorkersCompKit.com or 860-553-6604