Firefighter Health and Fitness Assessment: A Call to Action

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Impact Factor: 2.08). 03/2014; 28(3):661-71. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31829b54da
Source: PubMed


Sudden cardiac deaths experienced by firefighters in the line of duty account for the largest proportion of deaths annually. Several fire service standards for fitness and wellness have been recommended but currently only 30% of U.S. fire departments are implementing programs for this purpose. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has initiated the Physiological Health Assessment System for Emergency Responders (PHASER) program aiming to reduce these line-of-duty deaths through an integration of medical science and sensor technologies. Confirming previous reports, PHASER comprehensive risk assessment has identified lack of physical fitness with propensity for overexertion as a major modifiable risk factor. We sought to determine if current levels of fitness and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in a contemporary cohort of firefighters were better than those reported over the past 30 years. Fifty-one firefighters from a Southern California department were characterized for physical fitness and CVD risk factors using standard measures. Overall, physical fitness and risk factors were not different from previous reports of firefighter fitness and most subjects did not achieve recommended fitness standards. Considering the lack of widespread implementation of wellness/fitness programs in the U.S. fire service together with our findings that low physical fitness and the presence of CVD risk factors persist, we issue a call to action among health and fitness professionals to assist the fire service in implementing programs for firefighters that improve fitness and reduce CVD risk factors. Fitness professionals should be empowered to work with fire departments lending their expertise to guide programs that achieve these objectives, which may then lead to reduced incidence of sudden cardiac death or stroke.

Download full-text


Available from: Thomas W Storer, Nov 02, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Currently, there is no enforcement of physical standards within Australian fire services post-recruitment, possibly leading to inappropriate fitness and body composition. This study evaluated the impacts of ageing on physical standards of Australian firefighters. Seventy-three firefighters from three different 10-year age groups [25-34 years (n = 27), 35-44 years (n = 27), 45-54 years (n = 19)] volunteered for physical testing using dual-energy X-ray analysis and existing fitness tests used for recruitment by an Australian fire service. Older (45-54 years) participants demonstrated significantly poorer physical standards compared with younger participants including cardiovascular fitness (p < 0.05), strength (p = 0.001) and simulated operational power testing tasks (p < 0.001). Age-related body composition changes were also observed independent of body mass index. Minimum recruitment standards and fitness programs need to account for age-related declines in physical capabilities to ensure that the minimum standard is maintained regardless of age. Practitioner Summary: Using dual-energy X-ray analysis and established fitness testing protocols, this study aimed to gain an appreciation of the current standards of body composition and fitness of Australian firefighters and the effects of ageing on their physical abilities post-recruitment. The study demonstrated a significant decline in physical standards due to age.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Ergonomics
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Firefighters perform strenuous muscular work while wearing heavy, encapsulating personal protective equipment in high temperature environments, under chaotic and emotionally stressful conditions. These factors can precipitate sudden cardiac events in firefighters with underlying cardiovascular disease. The purpose of this pilot study was to deploy and explore the feasibility of the resting "advanced" 12-lead electrocardiogram (A-ECG) as a remote firefighter risk assessment tool for improved assessment of cardiac risk. Materials and methods: Conventional 12-lead resting electrocardiograms (ECGs) were collected for 5 min by using high-fidelity PC-based ECG hardware and software while subjects (n=21) rested comfortably. Raw data from the ECG system were securely transported via a secure network to a server where they were archived and processed. Authorized personnel performed both conventional ECG and A-ECG analyses from each digital recording, generating A-ECG "scores" in a blinded fashion. A separate cohort of firefighters (n=6) was trained to administer the A-ECG and rated the system's usability and frequency of technical problems. Results: Of the 21 uniformed personnel who completed testing, only 1 had a positive A-ECG score for coronary artery disease, which was subsequently confirmed by a cardiologist. All other subjects were classified as healthy by A-ECG. Firefighters trained to administer the A-ECG responded favorably in rating the usability of the system. Conclusions: We have demonstrated that a new technology, A-ECG, can be deployed for remote firefighter risk assessment being performed by firefighters themselves and interpreted centrally. This simple, time- and cost-effective approach can help identify individuals potentially at increased risk for line-of-duty death due to underlying cardiovascular disease.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Telemedicine and e-Health
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A primary objective of the present study was to examine the effect of short-term live-fire firefighting activities on key physiological, perceptual and psychological variables and whether occupational status influenced these responses. It was also of interest to examine whether individual difference factors differentiated the occupational status groups and if so, whether such individual difference factors influenced perceptual and psychological responses to firefighting activities. Male firefighters (n = 52 career, n = 53 volunteer firefighters) participated in 18 min of simulated firefighting activity in a training structure that contained live fires. Measures of heart rate (HR) and Tcore were obtained before and after firefighting activities along with perceptions of thermal sensations, exertion, respiratory distress and affect. Firefighting activities resulted in significant elevations in HR and Tcore , whereas thermal sensations, respiratory distress, exertion and affect all showed significant and sizable changes reflecting greater distress and dysphoria. Occupational status and individual difference factors accounted for some of this negative change. The findings replicate and extend previous work by demonstrating the influence of occupational status and individual difference factors in the psychological responses to firefighting activity. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Stress and Health
Show more