According to a 2018 study in the Journals of Scientific Reports, unusual bone spurs have begun showing up in the necks people aged 18 to 30. Researchers suggest that the changes are the result of sustained altered neck posture due to extensive use of hand-held technologies, such as smartphones and tablets. The study was reported in this article in the New York Times.
While the theory of “tech neck” is controversial, (see this article) some people have suggested that tech neck could be the next carpal tunnel syndrome. According to Tony Viggiano, national director for work strategies at Select Medical, in this article in from Risk & Insurance, like carpal tunnel, tech neck could be considered a workstation-related injury. According to Viggiano increased strain caused by continued altered posture of the neck can cause the spine to carry as much as 60 additional pounds of pressure. The article suggests that the constant altered neck posture by focusing on a computer monitor 8 hours a day could contributing/causing the problem.
Could this really be a compensable injury under Ohio’s worker’s compensation system? First of all, the injured worker would need to decide whether to allege “tech neck” as an occupational disease or as a “Village injury”. In order to establish “tech neck” as an occupational disease, the injured would have to establish that: (1) the disease was contracted in the course of employment; (2) the disease is peculiar to the injured worker’s employment or claimant’s employment results in a hazard which distinguishes the employment in character from employment generally; and (3) the employment creates a risk of contracting a disease in a greater degree and in a different manner that the public generally. A “tech neck” claim would probably not meet these elements of the Krise test.
However, the injured worker could decide to pursue the claim as a “Village injury”. In Village v. General Motors, the Ohio Supreme Court held that an injury which developed gradually over time as the result of the performance of an injured worker’s job duties was compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation system. The injured worker would still need to establish that the condition was proximately caused by employment. As noted above, the theory of “tech neck” is controversial.
So, will you be seeing “tech neck” claims anytime soon? Hopefully not, but at least now you’re on the lookout.