Maritime repetitive use injuries are common due to the nature of the work. You have a right to compensation if you develop one of these painful and potentially debilitating medical conditions. Federal maritime laws are in place to provide you with compensation whether or not your injury was caused by negligence.
What Is a Repetitive Use Injury?
This kind of injury, which also may be referred to as a repetitive motion, stress, or strain injury, occurs when you repeat the same motion repeatedly. For instance, a typical injury in office workers is carpal tunnel syndrome, which results from typing on a keyboard, which many office workers do all day, every day.
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A repetitive motion injury causes soft tissue damage. The damage may be temporary or permanent and can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.
Symptoms of a repetitive motion injury include:
- Swelling and redness
- Tingling sensation
- Loss of strength or range of motion
In many cases, a nerve may become pinched because of the injury, which is the leading cause of the symptoms.
Types of Repetitive Use Injuries in Maritime Work
There are many different kinds of repetitive stress injuries, and many that are common to maritime workers. If you engage in the same physical activity on the job every day, you could be at risk for one of these injuries.
For instance, if you have to lift things to high spaces every day, you could injure your shoulder from that repeated movement.
These are some of the repetitive motion injuries common in maritime workers:
- Rotator cuff syndrome – a shoulder joint injury
- Tendinitis – inflammation in a tendon in any joint
- Bursitis – inflammation of a bursa, the fluid-filled sack that provides cushioning in joints
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – a wrist injury
- Tenosynovitis – inflammation in the sheath covering a tendon
- Trigger finger – inflammation in the tendon and covering sheath in a finger or thumb
- Tennis elbow – injury and inflammation in the elbow joint
Maritime workers are also vulnerable to repetitive motion injuries like neck pain and inflammation, permanent nerve damage, and injuries unrelated to joints like hearing loss.
Treating Repetitive Stress Injuries
The initial treatment for these injuries is usually to rest the damaged area. For instance, if your elbow has pain and inflammation, your doctor will likely direct you to stop engaging in the motion that caused the damage.
Sometimes rest and ceasing the repetitive activity are enough to allow damage to reverse and the body to repair itself. Stretching exercises and physical therapy can support the natural healing process through rest.
To treat the symptoms like pain and swelling, icing the affected area can help, as can the administration of over-the-counter pain medications.
Surgery may be needed to correct the damage when these measures, along with rest and physical therapy, don’t help. This is rare, but the damage from repetitive use may be severe enough that only surgery can repair it.
Prevention is also important. Ergonomic equipment and rest periods at work can help to prevent injuries.
How Negligence Can Cause Repetitive Motion Injuries
As a maritime worker, your duties put you at risk for injuries, but your employer is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent these injuries.
Negligence may include forcing you to work hours too long or not allowing you to take breaks to rest. Another form of negligence is training and safety measures.
Your employer may be negligent in your repetitive stress injury if you have not been adequately trained to use equipment or how to prevent these injuries.
Your Rights for Repetitive Motion Injuries
If you are injured because of repetitive stress on the job and your doctor says you can’t work for a period, you have the right to have your medical expenses and lost wages covered.
Under the maritime law of maintenance and cure, you are entitled to medical care and living costs while you can’t work.
If negligence was involved and you are a seaman, the Jones Act allows you to further compensation.
As a longshoreman or continental shelf worker, you have federal workers’ compensation programs to provide money for treatment, lost wages, and other expenses.
If you suspect you are suffering from a repetitive use injury caused by your job duties, get medical treatment and document the injury. Also, file an injury report with your employer and seek a qualified attorney to help you get compensation through the federal maritime laws that apply to you.