A new study from the Rochester Institute of Technology suggests sign language interpretation is one of the highest-risk professions for ergonomic injury. According to a ScienceDaily news report, the research indicates that interpreting causes more physical stress to the extremities than high-risk tasks conducted in industrial settings, including assembly line work.
Further, the study found a direct link between an increase in the mental and cognitive stress of the interpreter and an increase in the risk of musculoskeletal injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, the news report said.
For the study, RIT researchers measured the physical impact of signing for a group of interpreters over a fixed time period, using metrics developed for industrial settings, and found wrist velocity and acceleration during interpreting, factors used to measure physical impact, were more acute than the high-risk limits for industrial workers. An increase in mental and cognitive stress for an interpreter led to a 15% -19% increase in wrist velocity and acceleration.
Matthew Marshall, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at RIT and a leader of the research group, said in the news report that the impact of injury on interpreters and its effect on retention is a major issue in the deaf community. Marshall plans to enhance the findings with additional studies of interpreters in different settings with the ultimate goal of making the professions more conducive to workers.
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