Winter is a dangerous time for work-related injuries

Patient Tom Ringwelski works with physical therapist Christy Kopischke in the new therapy room at the UCHealth Occupational Medicine Clinic, located inside UCHealth Emergency Care in Steamboat Springs.
UCHealth/Courtesy Photo

Four decades of teaching ski lessons at Steamboat Springs, and too many hours to count slow skiing and demonstrating corner position, have taken their toll on ski instructor Jill Lambek’s lap.

“Taking corner turns is not a natural position, and it destroys your knees so much. Skiing slowly is hard on the knees. They were so swollen that I couldn’t walk,” said Lambek, a full-time instructor at the over the past 40 winter seasons.

Teaching private lessons to new or returning skiers of all ages for sometimes 14-20 straight days during peak season injured Lambek’s knees from the repetitive motion, so she filed for workers’ compensation the spring. last. She received helpful treatment through the UCHealth Occupational Medicine Clinic and is now back at work part-time for her 41st season.

The Occupational Medicine Clinic now has an integrated space in the UCHealth Urgent Care Building south of Steamboat. The clinic is one of several local medical practices that handle workers’ compensation claims with the goal of treating and training employees so they can return to work safely.

“I think occupational therapy makes you healthy,” Lambeck said. “You have to do some of your own work and get on the right track and take better care of injuries. They try to make sure you can still do what you do for a living.

Longtime local physical therapist Christy Kopischke works with patients in the recently completed therapy room at the UCHealth Occupational Medicine Clinic. She said December to April is typically the busiest time of year for worker injuries which are largely caused by slips and falls in icy conditions, repetitive motion injuries and back injuries. due to improper lifting techniques or lifting over uneven or slippery surfaces.

Occupational health care can help a worker whose shoulder was injured when hit by a chairlift or something as unexpected as an employee sent to the grocery store for a work errand who falls into the icy parking lot and injured his hip, Kopischke said. Any job that requires a lot of lifting, ranging from construction workers to nurses lifting patients, is also a risk factor.

Ted Morton, practice administrator at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said while worker injuries fluctuate throughout the year, the winter season normally has more work-related injuries due to an increase in employment in the region. Morton said the clinic has seen a slight decline in work-related injuries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The goal is to get people back to work as quickly and safely as possible,” Morton said, adding that the clinic can also offer on-the-job training courses in topics such as body mechanics, workstation configuration and blood-borne pathogens.

Colorado law requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance when they have one or more employees, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. This applies to all paid employees, full-time or part-time, or family members.

Communications strategist Lindsey Reznicek of YVMC explained that occupational medicine takes a preventative approach to try to avoid potential work-related risks, while occupational therapy seeks to improve workers’ abilities to perform daily tasks.

UCHealth moved the occupational medicine specialty clinic to the urgent care facility in May, which has improved continuity of care for patients, Morton said. In addition to rehabilitation and work-related injury management services, the therapist may also travel to job sites to assess ergonomic issues or other on-site issues resulting in injury.

Clinic staff include Stacy Toye, Certified Physician Assistant, and Melissa McKibben, Nurse Practitioner. Dr. Christian Updike, who is certified in occupational medicine, is the clinic’s medical director and visits Steamboat monthly to see patients.

At 63, with decades of experience as a ski instructor, Lambek considers herself lucky with work-related injuries. Only a broken thumb and a whiplash in the past caused him problems all these years. The Colorado native, who has been skiing since the age of 2, takes the advice of the occupational health team seriously and has reduced teaching to around two days a week.

“The doctor said if I keep doing this I won’t be able to participate in all the activities I love to do, hiking, mountain biking and road biking, e-biking and whitewater kayaking,” Lambek said.

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