It’s not that funny

By Judge Brian Addington, Gray

Brian AddingtonI like having fun. Through the years, I’ve had some great times with friends and family.

I won’t tell who, but another judge on the Court of Worker’s Compensation Claims and I almost got thrown out of the University of Tennessee Law Library because our study group was laughing so hard.

One of the funniest times I’ve had working for the Bureau occurred during a lunch among the specialists in Kingsport before the Court was created. We were laughing so hard that one of us ended up in the floor. Luckily, no one was injured.

So, I know you’ve been there. You’re having fun, playing around, or partying with friends or family. Your team scores a touchdown or a goal, or someone tells a funny joke and you raise your hand to high-five him/her, and you hit your elbow on the table or wall. Oh, the pain! Yes, your funny bone has told you that you’ve hit it, and it’s not so happy with you.

Nerves_of_the_left_upper_extremityAs most folks know, the funny bone is not actually a bone at all. Rather, it is the place in your arm where the ulnar nerve rests against the humerus bone. The ulnar nerve runs from your shoulder to your hand and primarily to the small and ring fingers. I’m not a physician, but I, like most people, know when I’ve hit that nerve.

Take, for example, John Reed. He knew that his arm hurt.

He worked at Brown Shoe Company. His workdays consisted of repeated rough trimming of shoe soles in a strained position. This caused his ulnar nerve to jump out of its normal position and rub against his bones. The repeated movement got to him and started causing pain, but when he was taken off that particular job, his symptoms improved.

Eventually, though, the pain became continuous, and he reported to First Aid. He tried soaking his arm but then noticed his left hand looked strange compared to his right.

For Mr. Reed, his injury was serious, as he suffered atrophy of the muscles, numbness in his fingers, and loss of grip-strength in his left hand. His doctors recommended no use of his left arm, and Brown Shoe had no job for him with that restriction.

The trial Court found in his favor, as did the Supreme Court. For those inclined, it is an interesting read; the Supreme Court dealt with the definition of injury, notice, and the statute of limitations in this 1961 case. 

Repetitive motion injuries continue to be compensable as long as the injury arose primarily out of and in the course and scope of employment. So although the pain and injury might not be funny, benefits are available for those injured.

I’ll end with a joke.

Why didn’t the skeleton laugh? He broke his funny bone! (Now that is humerus!)

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