From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Study Establishes Costs of Musculoskeletal Disorder Claims by Body Region, Diagnosis and Industry

Work-related lumbar disc disorder and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) claims in the state of Ohio had average total direct costs of $52,041 and $13,253, respectively, according to a recently published analysis of Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation data for claims filed between 1999 and 2004.  For lumbar disc disorder claims, 89.5% had greater than 7 lost work days while the percent of CTS claims with greater than 7 lost work days came in at 80.6%. 

A total of 572,508 musculoskeletal (MSD) claims were made during the study time frame which produced an average total cost per claim of $5,130.  Of all lumbar spine claims, 7.7% were diagnosed as involving the lumbar disc (12,074 cases), however, they generated a 600% higher average cost per claim than any body region.  Of all hand/wrist claims, 6.6% were diagnosed as CTS (7,820 cases). 

The highest MSD average total claim costs involved transportation/warehouse/utilities ($7,378) and construction ($7,044) companies.  The highest MSD total claim costs occurred within the service ($909 million) and manufacturing ($673 million) industries.

The Bottom Line – How This Applies To Ergonomists
Insurance companies seldom disclose the costs of their liabilities.  An awareness of these seldom released figures can be used to justify worksite changes to contain ergonomic risk factors.  When the average direct cost of a lumbar disc disorder is $52,041, the return on investment for worksite modifications that reduce low back strain can be substantial.  Similar strong financial arguments can be made for CTS prevention.

This study can also alert the ergonomist to industries that have costly (transportation/warehouse/utilities and construction) and frequent (service and manufacturing) MSD injuries.

Company ergonomists can compare Ohio claim costs with their own employer’s experience to support the value of their injury prevention/worksite modification services.

Other Key Study Points
By body region, the average total cost per claim was:

  • Lumbar spine – $8,750
  • Cervical spine – $7,562
  • Shoulder – 6,668
  • Knee – $4,957
  • Hip/thigh – $3,796
  • Hand/Wrist – $2,081
  • Elbow – $1,971
  • Thoracic spine – $1,341
  • Foot/Ankle – $1,229

By body region, the percent of claims with >7 days lost work time was:

  • Lumbar spine – 34.1%
  • Shoulder  – 30.6%
  • Cervical spine – 30.3%
  • Knee – 28.6%
  • Hip/thigh – 27.1%
  • Foot/ankle – 16.9%
  • Hand/wrist – 16.0%
  • Elbow – 15.6%
  • Thoracic spine – 14.5%

Study Method
1999-2004 claims data was acquired from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OBWC), an agency that provides workers’ compensation coverage for 70% of the state of Ohio’s employees.

Study case inclusion criteria was defined as:

  • Claimant age of at least 16 years old
  • All claims involving a musculoskeletal ICD-9 code diagnosis except those caused by a fracture, trauma, or laceration
  • Claim had to generate at least one treatment bill

All cases were classified by anatomical region: hand/wrist, elbow, shoulder, cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, hip, knee and ankle/foot.  Cases diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome and lumbar disc disorder received specific analysis.  
Claimants were assigned to an industry based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS): manufacturing, agriculture, mining, construction, transportation/warehouse/utilities, wholesale/retail trade, service, and health/social assistance.

For body region, carpal tunnel syndrome, lumbar disc disorder and NAICS classification, the following data was generated:

  • number of claims
  • average/median total cost per claim
  • average medical/median cost per claim
  • average/medial indemnity cost per claim
  • percent claims with >7 days lost work
  • total cost of all claims (for body region and clinical diagnosis cases)

This study can be acquired at:

Article Title: Costs by Industry and Diagnosis Among Musculoskeletal Claims in a State Workers Compensation System: 1999-2004

Publication: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 53:276-284, 2010

Authors: K K Dunning, K G Davis, C Cook, S E Kotowski, C Hamrick, G Jewell, and J Lockey

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2010-03-02.