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Obesity may extend length of workers' compensation claim

Many workers in Columbus, Ohio, have been injured on the job. These injuries can turn into workers' compensation cases, and benefits can be retained for months while the broken ankle or torn rotator cuff heals. According to several studies, it seems that people who are obese are more likely to take more time to return to work.

Data from a 2007 study performed by Duke University shows that obese workers filed twice as many workers' compensation claims as those workers who were not obese. They also missed 13 times the amount of days for their injuries and had medical costs that were an average of seven times more.

Another study -- this one from 2010 -- found that obese workers typically receive a greater range of medical costs and treatments. The duration of those treatments is often longer for obese individuals who have received a similar injury to the individuals who are not considered obese.

A medical director for a workers' compensation claim management company said that about 28 percent of the claims that the company handles are from obese individuals. This conflicts with the data from Duke University.

.In a specific case, one man in his 20s sprained his ankle while on the job. He weighed more than 300 pounds and was treated for seven months before doctors said that his ankle would not likely return to its peak strength. He received workers' compensation throughout the process and was allowed to perform light-duty work while attending physical therapy for his injury.

It would be wise to treat the numbers with some skepticism, since employers will cry poverty and make other excuses to avoid paying for workers' compensation. The benefits exist for a reason: to help injured workers get by while recovering.

Source: Workforce.com, "Obesity Problems Weigh on Workers' Comp," Roberto Ceniceros, Mar. 8, 2012

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