Author: Phil Ghuneim – Workers’ Compensation Coordinator/ Corporate Communication Manager
In 2015, Los Angeles Lakers star, Kobe Bryant, suffered an acute full-thickness rotator cuff tear in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans. From the moment he approached the bench, Bryant was immediately tended to by the team’s head physician and orthopedic specialist. Just 7 days after he was definitively diagnosed, Bryant underwent surgery to repair the torn cuff.
Compare Bryant’s treatment to the timeline of one of our patients who sustained the same injury- we’ll call them “Patient X” for confidentiality’s sake. Patient X suffered an acute full-thickness rotator cuff tear while at work. After filing a claim, Patient X was sent to a series of healthcare providers over the course of 4 months before seeing a specialist (all while a definitive diagnosis had yet to be made). Finally, the patient was seen by an orthopedic specialist, who was able to definitively diagnose the injury and requested authorization for surgery.
It’s important to note that Patient X’s tear had retracted 2.5 centimeters by the time they were seen by a specialist. According to a 2014 study conducted on reliable treatment of rotator cuff injuries, the researchers found that surgical candidates who were operated on within 3 weeks of the date of injury, reaped overall better outcomes and were more likely to avoid retraction of the tear. (Ninkovic et al., 2014). With that being said, we can speculate that Patient X’s tear retraction was the product of excessive physical therapy without a precise diagnosis.
Ostensibly, it may not seem fair to compare treatment of one of the most illustrious athletes in the history of sports to that of a blue-collar worker. However, if we set aside all of the celebrity and glamor surrounding Kobe Bryant, at the most fundamental level, he is simply an employee who was injured at work – just like Patient X. So while Bryant may have a specialist standing by at all times in case of an injury, that doesn’t mean that Patient X couldn’t have received immediate treatment and a definitive diagnosis.
What does it take for the average injured worker to receive the same direct-to-specialist care that star athletes are afforded? It takes an orthopedic practice that offers the full spectrum of onsite services such as immediate care, in-house diagnostic imaging (X-ray, ultrasound, EMG, and MRI), occupational health services, and an onsite ambulatory surgery center (ASC) all under the direct supervision of specialists who have a strong return to work (RTW) philosophy.
The vast majority of employers are simply unaware that they do, in fact, have access to orthopedic specialists when a work injury occurs. This is because the number of practices which are implementing the full spectrum of services are few and far between. This shortage of consolidated specialist groups is part of what motivated our company to form. We identified a need that employers have in sending their injured workers directly to a specialist, and we’ve responded in kind. MidAmerica Orthopaedics is devoted to caring for your injured workers without any delay in treatment or prolonged medical care, and getting them back to work as quickly as possible.