View Full Version : CTS ignorance and statistics

Herman J. Woltring
10-06-1991, 09:40 PM
Dear Biomch-L readers,

The following two items may serve as summarizing information on the rather
hectic debate about CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) on the C+HEALTH list during
the past two months or so.

Regards -- Herman J. Woltring, Eindhoven/NL


Date: Sun, 29 Sep 1991 22:22:01 -0400
From: Dan Updegrove
Subject: Data collection on computer-related disabilities
Sender: Computing and Health

At last August's Seminar on Academic Computing in Snowmass, CO, and at the
prior meeting of EDUCOM's Educational Uses of Information Technology (EUIT)
task force, I was amazed -- and alarmed -- at the number of first-person and
"my department" experiences with computer-related health problems. Carpal
tunnel syndrome (CTS) and eyestrain were much discussed, as were physicians
ignorance of possible connections between computer use and health complaints.
(Also noteworthy were the number of senior computing professionals who had
never heard of CTS.)

At the University of Pennsylvania, we are very concerned about these
issues, yet we lack data that would enable us to assess the magnitude of
the problem. One senior official asserted six months ago that we'd never
had an occurrence of CTS, when two people at the meeting had colleagues in
surgery at the time! (It turned out that not one of the 40 people in the
room was aware of the "standard policy" that required anyone suspecting a
work-related health problem to be examined by our Hospital's department of
occupational medicine. No data; no problem!)

Do any of you have experience with, or ideas about, collecting data on the
incidence of computer-related health problems in your institution? Any
data collection in progress? (For example, does anyone inspect or photograph
workplaces of those complaining of/treated for injuries?) Any advice for
those with nothing to report except anecdotes?

Dan Updegrove
Assistant Vice Provost


Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1991 15:40:04 EDT
From: Chris.Grant@UM.CC.UMICH.EDU
Subject: National CTD statistics
Sender: Computing and Health

Someone gave some numbers about repetitive motion disorders
constituting over 50% of workplace injuries. I'd like to
correct and clarify this number, because it's not quite as
scarey as it sounds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics did
produce figures saying that RM problems are 52% of workplace
illnesses (NOT injuries). Illnesses is a small category
involving latency, etc. The category of injuries is much, much
bigger ... 25 times as many injuries as illnesses. If all the
repetitive motion problems were classified as injuries, they
would amount to only TWO percent of injuries.

Also, the vast majority of RM cases don't occur in offices.
They are in factories, meatpacking plants, agriculture, carpentry,
and so forth. The rates for office workers seem to be very
low in relation to this ... 2 new cases per 10,000 workers in
1989 as opposed to 20 new cases for other kinds of workers.

Really, upper-extremity CTDs are fairly insignificant compared
with things like lower back pain, which occur in offices at ten
times the rate and often ten times the cost, per affected worker.

I'm not trying to downplay the signifance of CTDs, but I don't
want its incidence, prevalence, or cost blown out of proportion,