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What Do You Think: Was Physical Therapist’s ‘Stress Event’ Physical Injury?

25 May, 2023 Chris Parker

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Albany, NY ( – It’s much easier for an employee to obtain workers’ compensation benefits in New York for a physical injury than for a “psychic” or mental injury. But what if a physical injury occurs because the worker’s mental state?

A case involving a physical therapist who suffered a myocardial infarction after talking to her supervisor (I think we’ve all been there), addresses that very question.

The therapist was talking to her supervisor about a shift change when she began to feel chest pain and nausea and started to sweat. She rushed to the emergency room, where a cardiologist determined, based on elevated troponin levels in her blood, that she had suffered a heart attack. The doctor also opined that the event was causally related to the therapist’s job.

The therapist sought workers’ compensation benefits on the basis that she suffered a heart attack as a result of work-related stress.

The workers’ compensation board denied the claim, reasoning that the therapist did not sustain a physical injury, but instead experienced "mild emotional distress and … a stress event.” It pointed out that a catheterization revealed no heart blockage and an echocardiogram the following day showed normal heart function.

Did the therapist suffer a physical injury?

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