Some IBEW members have very taxing jobs; climbing up poles, trimming trees, running lines etc. When they are injured on the job with a worker’s compensation injury, many times they are no longer able to do the physical activity they could do before. One way to measure the result of the injury is by knowing the amount of deconditioning the injured worker has suffered based on the number of METs the injured worker can perform.
METs is a measure of metabolic equivalent tasks you are able to do. It is a term used to represent the intensity of exercise, and can be used as a measurement of your impairment. Most exercise machines at the gym can display the exercise activity in terms of METs. We need to determine the number of METs the worker could do before, and how many he or she can do after the injury. This establishes the amount of deconditioning.
Climbing a utility pole is a task that expends approximately 10 to 12 METs to do. If you fell off the pole and incurred a severe lower extremity injury and are now only able to sit at a desk for limited periods of time, one way to measure the impairment is to determine the amount of deconditioning you suffered.
In worker’s compensation, we use a book called the AMA Guides 5th edition to determine what amount of impairment an employee has when he or she is injured. There is a table in the AMA Guides, Table 5-12, which can be used to classify loss of conditioning in terms of METs.
The number of METs that a person can do is normally measured on a motor driven treadmill with varying grades and speeds. Once we are able to determine the post-injury capability of the injured worker, we can determine what amount of loss of capacity he has had, and therefore determine what kind of permanent disability and monetary settlement he is due.
Here are some examples of various activities and the approximate number of METs it takes to do them:
Bowling – 2.5 METs
Housecleaning – 3.5 METs
Pulling weeds in the garden – 4.1 METs
Stacking firewood – 5 METs
Having sex – 6 METs
Backpacking – 8 METs
Handball – 10 METs
The ability to exercise is based on three factors – your cardiovascular system, your pulmonary system, and your physical conditioning. If the first two are intact, then the exercise test measures the third. Rating an impairment from an injury using deconditioning is what is referred to as a rating by analogy. If we know what you were capable of before you were injured — either by previous measurements or by the work you were able to do — we can now measure the exercise you are capable of now, and determine your loss of capacity. We can then go to the appropriate chart in the AMA Guides and determine the value of your impairment, and therefore the permanent disability and the amount of an award you would be entitled to. These are some examples of how it would work:
Example 1: A 50-year-old heavy equipment operator sustains a severe back injury.
- Previously in conjunction with operating the heavy equipment, he had to shovel out large portions of dirt. (10 METs)
- Now that he has injured his back, he is only able to sit at a desk for a limited time. (2 METs)
- He has a loss of capacity of 80%.
- Referring to the Pulmonary table, his loss would put him in class IV. (0 to 4.3 METs)
- He would have an impairment of 75% due to deconditioning.
Example 2: A 40-year-old lineman slips and falls and severely injures his knee.
- Before his injury, he could run an 8-minute mile and was expending 12.5 METs.
- Now, he can only walk one mile at 2.5 MPH. (2.5 METs)
- He has a loss of capacity of 80%.
- Using the same table, he would have an impairment of 70% due to deconditioning.
These are only a few of the tools we use at Mastagni Holstedt to determine how to help the injured worker know what we can suggest as a settlement. If you are injured at work, we invite you to contact a Mastagni worker’s compensation attorney at no cost to you to determine what your options are.
Dan Jakle is the manager of the worker’s compensation operations department of the Mastagni Holstedt law firm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.