Comparing Severity of Impairment for Different Permanent Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Injuries

Published in: Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, v. 12, no. 3, Sep. 2002, p. 205-221

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2001

by Robert T. Reville, Frank W. Neuhauser, Jay Bhattacharya, Craig Martin

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The labor market impact of upper extremity musculoskeletal injuries that result in permanent disability was estimated using data from the State of California. Administrative data on disability evaluations and resulting ratings was matched to data on the earnings of over 7000 injured workers. Using these data, labor market experience pre- and postinjury was tracked. Each injured worker was matched to a set of control workers who worked at the same firm, had the same tenure at the firm, and earned the same income at the time of injury. By comparing the injured and uninjured workers, lost earnings and the impact of injury on return to work was estimated. Evidence of considerable lost earnings resulting from injury was found. The results are compared to disability ratings that are used to set compensation under California's workers' compensation program. The disability rating was also found to predict poorly differences across upper extremity injuries in losses. In particular, those with shoulder injuries have larger losses than those with elbow or wrist injuries, despite receiving the same disability ratings.

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