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MRI Results Not Foolproof to Show Extent of Work Injury

If you are a football fan, you may have been following the story about Von Miller, star linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.  The story is also of interest, however, to injured workers, including those in PA.  (Parenthetically, we should note that Miller is, in fact, an injured worker, though the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act has special provisions for professional athletes – that said, the point of this article is that the care given to Miller is not the care received by the typical injured worker in PA).

On November 24, 2022, Miller injured his knee in a game against the Detroit Lions.  Being a star NFL player, Miller had access to the best medical tools possible, and was not required to have any kind of delay.  An MRI done the day after the injury showed the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) remained intact.  This meant the injury was not as severe as the team and player initially feared.

But, then an interesting thing happened.  Miller underwent exploratory surgery on the knee earlier this week.  A tear of the ACL was discovered, and repaired, during the procedure.  A tear that was not seen on the MRI.  Rather than missing a couple of weeks, suddenly Miller’s season was over.

Unlike Miller, an injured worker in PA does not have access to the best of medical care without any delay.  When a person who was injured at work gets an MRI, almost certainly after a delay, the results of the MRI are typically relied upon by doctors as the end all and be all.

Had Miller been a typical injured worker, the negative MRI would have simply been accepted as proving (incorrectly, as it turned out) that there was no ACL issue.  The doctors would have been skeptical when there was no quick healing from the injury.  As so often happens, there would be doubt about the injury and the desire to return to work.

It is critical that all parties, including the insurance carriers, the Workers’ Compensation Judges, and, of course, the doctors, remember that medicine is an art, not a science.  There are few certainties in medicine.  Diagnostic testing, including x-rays, CT scans and MRIs are all just tools, pieces of the puzzle.  One cannot simply take a diagnostic test result and declare that to be “the” answer.

What happened to Von Miller typically would not happen to an injured worker.  Because Von Miller was given the benefit of the doubt and was spared no expense to find the true injury.  And that’s just a shame.

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