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The Development Of Lower Extremity Repetitive Trauma Injuries In Railroaders

Several months ago, I posted a blog entry regarding repetitive trauma injuries in general. Today, I am going to specifically explore the issue of lower extremity repetitive trauma injuries.

“Lower extremity” refers to the legs, knees, ankles and feet. A repetitive stress injury is a disorder that can affect bones, muscles, tendons, nerves and other anatomical features. It develops when micro traumas, or minute injuries, occur repeatedly from overuse or misappropriate use of a body part or external force applied to the body. Lower extremity injuries in Railroaders usually take the form in the development of osteoarthritis in the knees. Osteoarthritis is often referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis. This type of arthritis occurs when the protective cartilage of the ends of the bones wear down over time. The condition gets worse when the cartilage itself becomes thinner and in some cases may wear away altogether (known as Grade IV osteoarthritis). As the osteoarthritis gets worse, there is increased pain and impaired movement in the joint. Osteoarthritis in the knee is usually diagnosed with the aid of X-rays and/or MRI examinations.

There are many causes for the development of osteoarthritis in the knees. For Railroaders, the main risk factors for the development of the condition include walking on uneven surfaces, repeatedly bending and stooping and working in awkward postures. Railroaders who routinely walk long distances across ballast, climb rail cars, squat to throw switches and couple air hoses and in the past, dismounted moving equipment, are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis in their knees. Over time, these activities act to wear down the cartilage that is contained in the knee joint.

There is no known cure for osteoarthritis. In its early stages the condition is usually treated conservatively in the form of medication, physical therapy and cortisone injections. In some cases, the condition is treated by injecting a lubricating substance into the knee. If conservative treatment fails to alleviate the problems, arthroscopic surgery may be performed to remove pieces of cartilage and smooth the joint surfaces. Ultimately, the knee joint itself might have to be replaced.

Please contact your United Transportation Union Designated Legal Counsel Matt Darby at 800-248-FELA or pmdarby@bsgfdlaw.com if you have any questions.

By Matt Darby

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