Cumulative Trauma/ Repetitive Stress Injuries
Cumulative Trauma/ Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive Stress and Cumulative Trauma Injuries
ALL FELA Injuries are not always immediately apparent to a railroader. Some such as FELA repetitive stress injuries only become noticeable to railroaders after months or years of increasing pain and aching. These injuries, also called FELA cumulative trauma injuries, are caused by repetitive motions or actions such as lifting or maneuvering in awkward positions. They may also be caused by unsafe work environments, improper training, or faulty equipment.
FELA Repetitive Stress Injuries
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- FELA carpal tunnel syndrome occurs from compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel of the wrist. The excessive pressure results in the hand suffering pain, numbness, weakness and tingling sensations. The condition worsens over time but with proper treatment and potentially surgery, relief can be achieved. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually occurs over time from repetitive wrist movements, but also can occur in rare cases due to injury. Railroaders should seek to understand if their hands and wrist are suffering from carpal tunnel or simply a different injury.
- Repetitive Stress Fractures
- FELA repetitive stress fractures start as small cracks in a bone that may continue to worsen over time until becoming a much more significant injury. Railroaders that employ repeated force to any bone structure in their body such as arms, legs, back, hands or feet may develop a stress fracture from their FELA work. Stress fractures can heal on their own if proactive care is taken, but many railroaders will not seek help until the pain or condition significantly worsens to the point of needing additional medical treatment such as surgery and physical rehabilitation.
- Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
- FELA related tinnitus and hearing damage may develop in workers frequently exposed to loud noises or incidents of extreme sound exposure. It can develop over the course of a railroading career even if hearing protection and other safety equipment is provided. Tinnitus is most easily described as ringing in the ears, even without the presence of external sound. It can be improved with treatment but also may be permanent. For FELA railroaders tinnitus is most common following hearing loss. In fact, tinnitus is usually accompanied by hearing loss in approximately in 9 out of 10 cases. If you have been repeatedly exposed to loud sounds and noises over your FELA career and suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus as a result you may have a FELA cumulative trauma claim.
- Repetitive Knee and Leg Injuries
- FELA repetitive knee and leg injuries can develop in railroaders who put repeated force on their knee and leg area. The repetitive impacts lead to a cumulative effect compounding into an injury such as an FELA ACL tear. Am ACL tear due to repetitive motions is not uncommon, as you may only partially tear it instead of it fully tearing. While it may be hard to point to one incident where you suffered your knee or leg injury, if its due to repetitive stress you should track your pain levels and injury to determine if you need to seek medical care before an injury worsens to the point of needing surgery.
- FELA tendinitis refers to the inflammation or irritation of a tendon, which is the thick tissue connecting muscles to bones. Tendinitis can affect numerous tendons and is commonly described in injuries such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, Achilles tendinitis, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, jumper’s knee, wrist tendinitis and swimmer’s shoulder. FELA related tendinitis can occur for railroaders from repetitive motions, overuse or injury on the tendon. Tendinitis can heal on its own but will often worsen if left untreated to the point of needing medical attention.
- FELA bursitis occurs from the inflammation of a fluid filled sac, called a bursa, that acts as a cushion and friction aid between tissues of the body. Bursitis occurs at joints that perform frequent repetitive actions and railroaders such as switchmen or others employing repetitive motions may find themselves suffering from bursitis. Treatment most often requires rest and conditions can worsen if work is continued without treatment.
What is a Cumulative Trauma Claim?
A cumulative trauma, or repetitive stress, injury claim differs from other FELA claims in that there is no apparent exact date of incident for the injury. Rather, this FELA injury is one that slowly worsens over time until it is too painful or apparent to continue working.
FELA claims also are subject to various statutes of limitations which limit the amount of time you have to file a claim after becoming aware of the injury. For a repetitive stress claim, the statutes of limitations often starts from when the injury becomes apparent and/or medically diagnosed.
What Provides Grounds for a Claim?
When determining whether or not you have a cumulative trauma claim, consider these factors
- Whether or not the injury could have been averted
- Whether or not the railroad’s negligence result in you being injured
- Was the railroad knowledgeable of the risks and chose to proceed in an unsafe fashion
- Whether or not the railroad provided a safe work environment and used the right equipment and precautions for a task
Cumulative stress injuries can be avoided. Proper procedure, training, a safe work environment, and proper tools can mitigate risk when working. It is the railroads responsibility to ensure these practices are followed. Failure to do so can serve as proof of negligence. If so, you may have a claim to seek compensation.
FELA Cumulative Stress Injury Attorneys
When faced with a cumulative stress injury, you may have questions on how to proceed. Your life may face new challenges and difficulties with what seemed as a mundane day to day tasks. Seeking legal advice is highly recommended so that you can have someone in your corner advocating for you and your rights. Our attorneys at The Youngdahl Law Firm PC and Doyle Dennis LLP are experienced in FELA claims and have a combined decades long history of fighting for workers’ rights in court. If you have any questions regarding these matters, please contact us so that we can assist you in what may be a trying time.