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Defining repetitive stress injuries

Under the Massachusetts Workers Compensation Act, employers are obligated to provide benefits and coverage for illnesses that happened in or because of the workplace, whether those injuries are temporary or lead to permanent disability. One such type of injury is repetitive stress injuries, in which accumulated strain over time can lead to permanent physical or mental damage to the worker. Repetitive stress injuries are also sometimes called repetitive strain injuries.

Identifying repetitive stress injuries can be difficult at first, because the effects are cumulative. For instance, operating a lever in a factory may not cause any harm if it is only done on occasion. If a worker operates that same lever multiple times a day every day for the duration of their employment, over time the continuous and repetitive motion may cause undue and lasting harm to joints and tendons in the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

Repetitive stress injuries can be much more common than one might think. In a series of interviews published by Boston public news radio station WGBH, the newscasters collected a number of stories from Massachusetts workers regarding on-the-job injuries. A physical therapist with a history of working with people with workplace injuries reported that even healthcare workers themselves deal with repetitive stress injuries, such as the strain, wear and tear that can happen when continuously changing from a standing to a kneeling position on a hard floor, or when consistently flexing certain muscle groups as part of occupational practices.

The interview claims that many workers leave the field due to repetitive stress injuries or other injuries, resulting in possible permanent disability or necessitating a change in career. It is uncertain whether the person interviewed chose to pursue a workers' compensation claim for repetitive stress injuries.

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