Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are a group of conditions resulting from continuous and repetitive strain on muscles, tendons, and nerves. These injuries often develop gradually over time and can cause significant pain, discomfort, and even permanent damage if left untreated. Railroad workers, who often perform physically demanding tasks on a daily basis, are at a heightened risk of developing RSIs due to the nature of their work.
For example, a railroad worker may end up with a repetitive stress injury from repeatedly pulling levers or operating heavy machinery, leading to excessive strain on the wrists, hands, or shoulders. There are several other tasks that workers in this industry perform that can lead to RSIs.
Types of Repetitive Stress Injuries Commonly Affecting Railroad Workers
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common RSI that occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, becomes compressed due to repetitive motions or prolonged awkward positions. For railroad workers, CTS can develop as a result of tasks like operating machinery, using hand tools, or repeatedly gripping and pulling levers. Symptoms of this condition include numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers, which may worsen over time if left untreated.
Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon, often caused by overuse or repetitive motion. Railroad workers may develop tendonitis in various parts of their body, such as the wrist, elbow, or shoulder, due to tasks like lifting heavy equipment, repetitive hammering, or prolonged use of vibrating tools. Symptoms of tendonitis can include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area, potentially making it difficult to continue performing work tasks.
Bursitis occurs when the small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which cushion joints and reduce friction between tissues, become inflamed due to repetitive motion or excessive pressure. Railroad workers may be at risk for bursitis in areas like the knees or elbows from tasks that involve kneeling, crawling, or leaning on hard surfaces for extended periods. Symptoms of bursitis can include pain, swelling, and limited range of motion in the affected joint.
Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition where one or more fingers become stuck in a bent position due to inflammation and thickening of the tendon sheath. This RSI can affect railroad workers who frequently use their hands to grip and operate tools, machinery, or equipment. Symptoms of trigger finger include pain, stiffness, and a locking sensation when attempting to straighten the affected finger. In severe cases, the finger may become permanently bent if left untreated.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries are a common type of RSI affecting the muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, which provide stability and facilitate a wide range of motion. Railroad workers may develop rotator cuff injuries as a result of tasks that involve repetitive overhead movements, heavy lifting, or forceful pushing and pulling motions.
Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries can include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the affected shoulder, potentially impacting the worker’s ability to perform their job effectively. In severe cases, a rotator cuff tear may require surgical intervention to repair the damage.
Long-Term Consequences of Repetitive Stress Injuries for Railroad Workers
The effects of repetitive strain injuries can impact the worker for many months or even years after the injury develops. Railroad workers who suffer these types of injuries commonly have to live with:
- Chronic Pain and Discomfort: One of the most significant long-term consequences of repetitive stress injuries is chronic pain and discomfort. This ongoing pain can negatively impact a railroad worker’s quality of life, making it difficult to perform daily tasks and enjoy leisure activities.
- Decreased Range of Motion and Mobility: Repetitive stress injuries can lead to a reduced range of motion and mobility in the affected joints and muscles. This decrease in mobility can make it challenging for railroad workers to continue performing their job duties effectively, potentially impacting their career trajectory.
- Increased Risk of Re-Injury: Once a worker has sustained a repetitive stress injury, they may be more susceptible to re-injury in the same area of the body in the future. This increased risk can result in a cycle of pain and injury, leading to various long-term physical limitations.
- Loss of Income and Job Opportunities: The physical limitations and pain associated with repetitive stress injuries can force railroad workers to take time off work or even change careers. This loss of income and job opportunities can have significant financial and emotional consequences for the affected workers and their families.
- Mental Health Effects: Chronic pain and the resulting lifestyle changes associated with repetitive stress injuries can also impact a railroad worker’s mental health. Depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness are not uncommon among those who are dealing with long-term debilitating pain.
- Potential Need for Surgery or Long-Term Treatment: In some cases, repetitive stress injuries may require surgery or ongoing medical treatment to manage pain and improve function. These treatments can be costly and may come with their own set of risks and complications.
Legal Rights and Protections for Railroad Workers with Repetitive Stress Injuries
Unlike other industries where workers’ compensation is the primary means for injured employees to seek compensation, railroad workers are specifically covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA is a federal law that allows injured railroad workers to sue their employers for negligence and obtain compensation not only for medical expenses and lost wages but also for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses.
FELA claims differ significantly from workers’ compensation claims. While workers’ comp is a no-fault system that provides benefits regardless of employer negligence, FELA requires injured workers to demonstrate that their employer was at least partially responsible for their injury.
Because it requires proving employer negligence and navigating the unique regulations and legal procedures applicable to the railroad industry, lodging a FELA claim successfully can be a complex and difficult process. This is why it is crucial for injured workers to work with an experienced railroad injury lawyer.
Injured by a Repetitive Stress Injury as a Railroad Worker in Alabama? Contact Burge and Burge for Assistance
If you or a loved one has suffered from a repetitive stress injury while working in the railroad industry, it is essential to seek the guidance and support of a skilled and knowledgeable legal team. At Burge and Burge, we understand the unique challenges and complexities of FELA claims, and we have extensive experience successfully representing injured railroad workers.
Call us today at 205-251-9000 or message us online to set up a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.