When the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act was first enacted in 1911, there was no provision for compensable occupational diseases. If the worker was not injured in an accident or trauma, in the traditional sense, it was not compensable. The Act was amended in 19 24 to extend the protections afforded by the workers compensation system to certain specified occupational conditions related to metal poisoning or chemical exposure. However, it was not until 1949, when additional amendments were enacted, that orthopedic injuries caused by repetitive or continuous trauma become compensable. The standard for establishing a "compensable occupational disease" is proving that the disease arose out of and in the course of employment, and was due to causes and conditions which are or were characteristic of, or peculiar to, a particular trade, occupation, process or employment. The statute was further amended in 1980 when the requirements of causation were enhanced to read that the disease had to be due, in a material degree, to causes and conditions which are or were characteristic of a particular trade, occupation, or process of employment. Additionally, the statute was further amended to preclude compensability for any condition which arose due to the natural aging process. Now, as with any other workers' compensation claim, the key issue is whether petitioner can prove that the damage alleged due to repetitive stress is causally related to the type of stress that is characteristic of, or peculiar to, the employment.
There is no single, precise legal definition of the term repetitive stress injury. These injuries occur when one motion is repeated multiple times a day. Over the course of months or even years, the combined effects of this minor repetitive strain can take a serious toll on a worker's health. Most claims involve repetitive motion that can cause strain to the soft tissues such as the tendons or muscles which result in orthopedic pain and limitation in the joints or spine. Examples of repetitive stress injuries are tendinitis, which can result from stress tendons of the legs, knees, wrists and arms or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is essentially an entrapment on the median nerve in your wrist, which causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands, as well as aggravations of pre-existing arthritic or other osteopathic conditions.