Aerobic Capacity and Injury Risk: Determining Associative Factor of Injury Among Emergency Service Employees
AuthorPoplin, Gerald Scott
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBackground: The high frequency of emergency responses and the variety of response environments for firefighting and emergency medical services dictate a potential for high work demands and an increasing need for maintaining above average physical fitness. This study makes use of a retrospective occupational cohort study design to explore the relationships between measures of fitness and injury outcomes. Methods: Data were collected from annual medical exams and injury surveillance records recorded for the years 2004-2009 among commissioned employees of the Tucson Fire Department. Fitness was assessed and contrasted via a submaximal estimate of aerobic capacity and a developed metric and score for comprehensive "fire fitness" encompassing seven separate measures for strength, endurance, flexibility, body composition and aerobic fitness. Individual fitness scores were classified as 'high fit', 'fit', and 'less fit'. The association between the fitness measures and injuries was evaluated using two approaches: log-binomial and time-to-event analyses. Results: The annual injury incidence rate averaged 17.7 per 100 employees. One-third of all injuries (32.9%) resulted from physical exercise activities, while patient transport, training drills, and fireground operations resulted in 16.9%, 11.1% and 10.2% of injuries, respectively. For all job operations, sprains and strains were the most prevalent type of injury, followed by contusions and lacerations. The reliability of fitness and clinical measures showed mean flexibility, grip strength, percent body fat, and resting heart rate each had intraclass correlations (ICC) values above 0.5, suggesting fair to good reliability. In contrast, mean VO2max was an unreliable measure with an ICC of 0.27. Hazard ratios from time-to-event analyses indicated that increases in cardiorespiratory fitness were significantly associated with decreased risk against injury. Similarly, decreases in comprehensive "fire fitness" were associated with an increased risk of injury. Conclusions: These findings add support that improving one's fitness reduces the likelihood of injury. Future research should focus on the relationship between fitness, performance and health outcomes. Individual level fitness improvements should be objectively measured and designed within the functional limitations of that individual, and without subjecting the person to injury in that process.
Degree ProgramGraduate College