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CTS ignorance and statistics

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  • CTS ignorance and statistics

    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,