A Publication of WTVP

If you have experienced a shoulder injury from a weekend remodeling project, a physical therapist who understands shoulder rehabilitation will likely provide competent rehabilitative care. However, if that injury occurred on a football field, a better candidate to provide treatment is the expert who specializes in sports injuries. Returning to general conditioning, participating in full-contact scrimmages and finally making it back into game situations are all important for that specialist to understand.

The worker experiencing a shoulder injury on the job has occupational issues regarding that injury extending beyond the scope of the general rehab practitioner. Modified duty, workers’ compensation laws and possible secondary gain issues are only a few things that factor into a worker’s rehabilitation program. Clinicians with this knowledge are imperative to achieving the best outcome, while other clinically gifted providers possessing only a limited understanding of such issues cost companies money.

Employers and insurance professionals should ask basic questions to determine if their therapists and rehab facilities know how to handle work-related injuries. Consider these questions as a basic screening tool:

  1. Does the clinician’s specialty reside in treating work-related injuries? Practically speaking, unless at least 80 percent of the therapist’s patients are injured workers, s/he does not specialize in treating injured workers.
  2. Is it routine for the clinician to visit workplaces? The clinician does not necessarily need to visit your workplace to provide good care for the injured worker. But if he has never performed a jobsite analysis or visit related to treatment, it is unlikely that he has an understanding of a worker’s needs for returning to productive work.
  3. Do the clinician and clinic have good reputations? Ask insurance professionals and previously injured workers. What were the outcomes? Was communication timely and thorough? Did the worker develop a positive rapport with the clinician?
  4. Does the clinic provide a proactive and aggressive plan of action for the return-to-work process? Does the clinic offer realistic, time-sensitive goals for treatment and stick to them? Does the clinic rely on and bill for passive modalities such as ice and heat packs, ultrasound or electrical stimulation as its treatment plan? Do workers comment that they work hard while in therapy?
  5. Is the clinic supportive of case managers, adjusters and employers? When calling, do you get a warm reception, or are you a nuisance? Are case managers welcome to visit the specialist?

Therapists are not always recognized for their specialization in work-related injuries. As a result, workers miss more days of work, and employers and insurance carriers experience unnecessarily rising costs. The therapist who specializes becomes an asset to all involved. iBi