Background: Work disability following motor vehicle related orthopaedic trauma is a significant contributor to the burden of injury and disease. Early identification of predictors for return to work (RTW) is essential for developing effective interventions to prevent work disability. The study aim was to determine the predictors (including compensation related factors) of time to RTW following motor vehicle related orthopaedic trauma. Methods: Admitted patients were recruited prospectively from two trauma hospitals with upper and/or lower extremity fractures following a motor vehicle crash. Baseline and follow up data were collected by written questionnaire. For baseline, this occurred in person within 2 weeks of injury. For follow up, this occurred by mail at six, 12 and 24 months. Additional demographic and injury-related information was retrieved from hospital databases. Analysis involved: descriptive statistics; logrank test to detect survival distributions of categorical variables; and Cox proportional hazards regression models for risks of time to RTW using baseline characteristic and compensation related variables (at 6 months). Results: Of 452 study participants 334 (74 %) were working pre-injury: results are based on this subset. Baseline characteristics were mean age 36 years (13.9 Standard Deviation [SD]), 80 % male; 72 % self-assessed very good-excellent pre-injury health, 83 % household income > AU$40,000 (Australian Dollar). Follow up data was available for 233 (70 %), 210 (63 %), and 182 (54 %) participants at six, 12 and 24 months respectively. Significant risks of a longer time to RTW were greater injury severity, as measured by the New Injury Severity Score (NISS) (Hazards Rate Ratio [HRR] = 0.54, 95 % CI 0.35-0.82); and lower occupational skill levels (HRR = 0.53, 95 % CI 0.34-0.83). Significant risks of a shorter time to RTW were: recovery expectations for usual activities within 90 days (HRR = 2.10, 95 % CI 1.49-2.95); full-time pre-injury work hours (HRR = 1.99, 95 % CI 1.26-3.14); and very good self-assessed pre-injury health status (HRR = 1.41, 95 % CI 0.98-2.02). Legal representation (analysed at six months only) was not associated with time to RTW. At each time period, there were 146 (63 %), 149 (71 %), and 137 (76 %) working participants. Conclusions: A longer time to RTW was associated with greater injury severity and lower occupational skill levels; while a shorter time to RTW was associated with recovery expectations for usual activities within 90 days, full-time pre-injury work hours, and very good self-assessed pre-injury health status. Our findings reinforce existing research. There is an opportunity to trial interventions that address potentially modifiable factors. The issues surrounding legal representation are complex and require further research.
An erratum exists for this article and can be found at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-016-1065-0
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- Compensation and redress
- Multiple trauma
- Return to work
- Wounds and injury