In the PA Workers’ Compensation system, we often see the workers’ comp insurance company doctors employ a fanatical reliance on “objective” diagnostic studies, at least when the results are negative. These doctors who perform Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)[More accurately known as Defense Medical Examinations (DMEs)] use a negative study to say the injured worker must be fully recovered.
This view, of course, is far too simplistic and quite flawed. One could ask Kevin Curtis for confirmation. As many of you know, Kevin Curtis is a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. He has not been able to play football this year due to persistent pain in his knee. Repeated MRI studies of the knee were negative for any structural damage at all. Had Mr. Curtis been an injured worker, the IME/DME doctors would have said there is nothing wrong with him, and he can return to unrestricted work.
Yet, with millions of dollars hanging in the balance, Mr. Curtis remains unable to return to the field. In fact, the symptoms were so troubling to Curtis that he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. This type of case should serve as a reminder to Workers’ Compensation Judges (WCJs), as well as to those doctors performing IMEs and DMEs, that no diagnostic test, whether x-ray, MRI or CT scan, is infallible. And, sometimes, when an injured worker says his or her knee (or shoulder, or back, or whatever) really hurts, even in the face of a negative study, maybe it really does still hurt.