The Frequency, Severity, and Economic Consequences of Musculoskeletal Injuries to Firefighters in California

by Seth A. Seabury, Christopher F. McLaren


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The most common work-related injuries among firefighters are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The strict physical demands of the job and limited modified work opportunities suggest that MSDs are potentially more disruptive and costly to firefighters than to others. The importance of understanding the frequency and severity of firefighter MSDs has become heightened due to changes to the California workers' compensation landscape since 2004, including the reduction of permanent-disability ratings that occurred due to the adoption of a new disability rating system and new rules for apportioning disability with respect to job-related causation, the adoption of treatment guidelines to provide utilization review in workers' compensation medical care, and the imposition of caps on the number of times injured workers can be reimbursed for use of chiropractic care and physical therapy. Each of these could have a potentially disadvantageous and disproportionate impact on firefighters with MSDs. This book describes the average frequency and severity of work-related MSDs experienced by California firefighters; examines the impact of work-related MSDs on the firefighters' earnings and employment several years after injury; evaluates the reforms' impact on the ratings of firefighters with permanently disabling MSDs; and assesses whether reforms to the medical delivery system affected the employment outcomes of firefighters with MSDs.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Describing Firefighter Musculoskeletal Injury Risk

  • Chapter Three

    Evaluating the Impact of Permanent Disabilities on the Earnings and Employment of Firefighters

  • Chapter Four

    Assessing the Impact of Reforms on Disability Ratings for Firefighters

  • Chapter Five

    Evaluating the Impact of Medical Reforms on Employment Outcomes for Firefighters

  • Chapter Six


  • Appendix

    Multivariate Analysis

This research was sponsored by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace on behalf of the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation.

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