The Importance of a Correct Diagnosis of Military Non-Freezing Cold Injury (NFCI)

The Importance of a Correct Diagnosis of Military Non-Freezing Cold Injury (NFCI)
 The Importance of a Correct Diagnosis of Military Non-Freezing Cold Injury (NFCI)
Updated: In: Military

For military personnel operating in cold and wet conditions, non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) continues to be a real problem. A NFCI can significantly impact a military personnel’s ability to work and in some cases even end a military career if not taken care of correctly. It’s essential for anyone working in cold and wet environments to be able to spot the early warning signs, and know how to prevent an NFCI, as doing so can allow for a faster recover and return to work.

With legal professionals seeing an increasing numbers of Raynaud’s Phenomenon diagnoses and a lowering number of non-freezing cold injury diagnoses, we look at the implications this may have to those seeking compensation.

If you have sustained a non-freezing cold injury, due to military negligence whilst serving in the armed forces, you may be eligible to make a cold injury claim.

What is Military Non-Freezing Cold Injury?

NFCIs are common amongst military personnel who find themselves in cold and wet environments for sustained periods of time.

A non-freezing cold injury can occur when your body temperature falls below a normal level for a prolonged period, which reduces the blood flow to the extremities of the body. The reduced blood flow can result in tissue damage without any freezing occurring.

Early symptoms of NFCIs include numbness, a pins and needles sensation, and skin that appears red initially before turning pale.

If NFCI is left unattended, the symptoms will progress to more severe conditions. This includes persistent pain, sensitivity to the cold and long-term nerve damage.

The long-term effects from NFCIs can not only affect your physical wellbeing but also your ability to perform your military duties. In some cases, individuals may even face medical discharge from the armed forces.

The Importance of a Non- Freezing Cold Injury Diagnosis

When diagnosed with an injury it’s important to ensure you are receiving a correct diagnosis. You may wonder why the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would care what diagnosis is made, but unfortunately the answer comes down to money. In recent years, the rate of military personnel diagnosed with a non-freezing cold injury has been reducing year-on-year. However, a growing number of legal professionals are questioning whether this is really the case.

Increasing numbers of military personnel are being diagnosed with Raynaud’s Phenomenon (RP) which is an idiopathic condition, meaning it simply develops. This removes any blame from the injury and means the injury has no correlation to the long wet and cold conditions the personnel were subjected to. If the injury is not due to military negligence, this means that the MoD do not have to grant an award under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) or compensate the service personnel through a legal claim or receive a tax-free pension.

JSP 539 states that “a working diagnosis of NFCI should be made by a Primary Healthcare by nominated NFCI clinicians and will be based upon comprehensive history standardised clinical examination and specialist tests.” However, increasing diagnosis’s of NFCI are being dismissed in favour of RP by doctors who in some cases have not even seen the military personnel.

Common Causes of Military Non-Freezing Cold Injury

During military service, personnel are exposed to certain environmental elements. Although prolonged exposure to these cold and wet elements can be the sole cause of a NFCI, other factors often play a part in the likelihood that NFCI develops. Recognising the causes of a NFCI not only help prevent future occurrences but can also help gauge the cause of a potential NFCI, so you can assess your potential eligibility for compensation.

Inadequate Personal Protective Equipment

Firstly, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) can increase the risk of developing a NFCI. It’s imperative that your employer provides you with proper PPE. Defective gear such as improper clothing, no access to appropriate cold-weather gear and faulty footwear that does not keep your feet dry can increase the risk of developing a NFCI.

Previous Experience of Cold Injuries

Furthermore, individuals who have previously experienced cold injuries, including NFCIs are more susceptible to developing future injuries. This is because previous injuries can lead to increased sensitivity to cold, reducing the body’s ability to tolerate exposure.

Poor Physical Fitness

Poor physical fitness also plays a part in the likelihood of developing a NFCI. A lower-level of fitness can result in reduced blood circulation, making it harder for the body to keep its extremities warm. Furthermore, those with a lower percentage of body fat have less natural insulation to protect them against cold elements, therefore increasing their risk of injury.

Lack of Hydration and Nutrition

Adequate hydration and nutrition are vital in protecting the body against a NFCI by maintaining body heat and energy levels in cold environments.

Lack of Acclimatisation

Finally, a lack of acclimatisation to cold environments can result in the development of a NFCI. If a service personnel is quickly subjected to a cold environment without the time to acclimatise, they are at greater risk of developing an injury. Gradual exposure to the cold helps the body to adapt, and adjust, improving its ability to regulate head and circulation.

How AWH Solicitors Can Help

If you suspect you have been mis-diagnosed with RP instead of NFCI, our military solicitors are here to help you.

Our specialist military accident solicitors have a great deal of experience with dealing with all forms of military negligence compensation claims and can help you to get the help that you need. All our cold injury claims in England and Wales can be made on a no win no fee basis, and we want to offer assistance to all service personnel.

Read more on our military injury compensation claims page.

Get in touch today for expert help and advice about your situation.