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Psychosocial Factors That Influence Recovery in Aircrew With Musculoskeletal Disabilities

Taneja, Narinder, MD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181c6aed0
Occupational Health/Ergonomics

Study Design. Descriptive questionnaire study.

Objective. This preliminary study was undertaken to try and develop an understanding of the factors that may affect recovery in aircrew with musculoskeletal disabilities.

Summary of Background Data. Clinical recovery from musculoskeletal disabilities is generally achieved after the patient undergoes definitive therapy and rehabilitation. However, a proportion of patients may continue to suffer from morbidity and pain long after clinical and radiological finality has been reached. In these cases, psychosocial factors may have played a contributory role. There has been no research documenting or studying such factors in aviation and pilots in particular.

Methods. The study was carried out at the Department of Human Engineering from 2004 to 2006. A detailed questionnaire was designed to elicit basic clinical details and psychosocial factors at work and home.

Results. A total of 57 male aircrew participated voluntarily in this study. Of these, 41 (71.9%) achieved normal recovery, whereas in the remaining 16 (28.1%), recovery was considered delayed. The mean age of aircrew in the normal recovery group (33.1 ± 4.6 years) was slightly higher than those in the delayed group (31.0 ± 3.2 years). All the aircrew who had delayed recovery had a spinal disability, whereas spinal disabilities constituted only 46.3% in the normal recovery group. Of the spinal disabilities in aircrew with delayed recovery, 12 had low backache. Aircraft accidents and ejection accounted for almost one-fifth of the total disabilities (n = 11, 21.9%). The respondents identified multiple sources of emotional support viz., friends, family, and parents.

Conclusion. A hypothetical model is proposed that possibly explains to some extent the role of psychosocial factors affecting recovery in aircrew with musculoskeletal disabilities. Further research in psychological and emotional consequences of trauma, in particular ejection and the best means/timings to address these, is recommended.

Some aircrew with musculoskeletal disabilities may exhibit delayed recovery. Psychosocial factors may play a contributory role in such cases. Existing models explaining work-related occupational injuries may not be applicable in aircrew. An understanding of these factors in aircrew could help in a speedy and complete recovery.

From the Station Medicare Center, Air Force Station, Bagdogra, District Darjeeling, West Bengal, India.

Acknowledgment date: November 10, 2009. Revision date: September 9, 2009. Acceptance date: September 15, 2009.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Narinder Taneja, MD, Station Medicare Center, Air Force Station, Bagdogra, Darjeeling District, West Bengal, India; E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.