Economic Consequences of Firefighter Injuries and Their Prevention.
Gulf Breeze, FL (Vocus) October 3, 2009
Renowned orthopaedic and sports medicine surgeon Dr. James Andrews and performance training company Athletes' Performance are widely known for taking care of elite professional athletes. However, both organizations continually provide care and training for many types of "athletes" and new research is now focused on them. Researchers located at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, Fla., founded by Dr. James Andrews, have recently finished collecting biomechanical data that may identify the potential for firefighter injury. The collaborative research study has been lead by two Ph.D. students from the University of Waterloo in Canada in conjunction with the Andrews Institute, Athletes' Performance and over 75 members of the Pensacola Fire Department.
Due to the physically demanding and unpredictable nature of their work, "occupational athletes" such as firefighters, soldiers, and police officers are frequently injured in the line of duty. These noble "occupational athletes" are frequently placed in high risk, volatile environments wherein it would be difficult if not impossible to implement ergonomic strategies to reduce the associated risk. Consequently, many public protectors and servants are forced to accept the risk of damaging their body and must selflessly cope with chronic pain and disability. Injured firefighters, soldiers, and police officers are not only a danger to themselves, but the safety of their co-workers and the people they serve can be compromised.
A healthy firefighter is an effective and safe firefighter. If injury prevention is attainable, more lives will be saved. It will also save on the bottom line for many municipalities, not to mention the financial burden an injury could place on the family of a firefighter. Billions of dollars are spent each year on disability payments, medical treatments, duty restrictions, and lost work/training time, not to mention the countless human-related sacrifices being made. While it is unlikely that all firefighter injuries can be eliminated, risk management and training applications might offer ways to reduce present injury levels.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) along with the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report in 2005, "Economic Consequences of Firefighter Injuries and Their Prevention." They found that the estimated cost of addressing firefighter injuries and of efforts to prevent them is $2.8 to $7.8 billion per year. The study was able to obtain workers compensation information that was specific to occupational codes for firefighters, injured and non-injured alike. Estimated health care costs alone accounted for $830 to $980 million of direct and indirect costs.
The research study screened firefighters to determine if specific training can improve their movement patterns during occupational tasks and prevent injury in the field. To accomplish their goal, the research team performed biomechanical analyses of the firefighters while they performed various work-related and non work-related physical duties. The data collected will provide insight into why some firefighters may be susceptible to injury when fulfilling their occupational duties, and provide information that can be used to develop evidence-based physical training programs.
Too often, measures of "fitness", such as strength or muscular endurance are used to identify occupational readiness, with disregard for how the tasks are performed. Interestingly enough, the individuals appearing to be the most physically prepared could in fact move their body's in ways that predispose them to a higher risk of injury. There is some indirect evidence to suggest that firefighters who have trouble controlling their normal body mechanics may be more susceptible to low-back and other musculoskeletal injuries than firefighters who exhibit excellent body control.
"Firefighters and their families already understand the hazards of being on the job, whether it is rushing into a burning building or suffering from physical exhaustion and injury. That is why this research is so important - it could potentially save lives," says Dr. James Andrews. "If we are able to identify injury trends and suggest improvement for training modifications, this could have a profound impact on an international scale...not only in the firefighting community but in other occupations as well."
Additional information including video and photos of the research study can be found at: http://www.theandrewsinstitute.com/ResearchEducation/Firefighters.aspx
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About the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine:
Located minutes from Pensacola, Florida in Gulf Breeze, the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine provides world-class care and service for the athlete in everyone. The Institute's 40 physicians and medical experts provide top-notch service to every patient and it's the only place in the world to offer surgery, diagnostic imaging, rehab and athletic performance training all on one campus. The one-of-a-kind center focuses on the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries while using the expertise of nationally and internationally renowned orthopaedic surgeon James Andrews, M.D. Dr. Andrews is best known as physician to some of sport's greatest professional athletes. http://www.theandrewsinstitute.com
The Andrews Institute is an affiliate of Baptist Health Care. Nationally recognized for performance excellence and quality achievement, Baptist Health Care includes four hospitals, two medical parks, Baptist Manor, Baptist Home Health Care and Durable Medical Equipment, Baptist Leadership Institute, Andrews Institute for Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine and Lakeview Center.
About Athletes' Performance & Core Performance
Founded in 1999 by Mark Verstegen, Athletes' Performance (http://www.athletesperformance.com ) has set the standard for providing athletes with cutting-edge training based on the latest sports science. Athletes' Performance provides world-class methodology, specialists and facilities seamlessly integrated to efficiently and ethically enhance its athletes' performance.
Athletes' Performance operates elite world-class facilities at its original site in Phoenix, Arizona; the Home Depot National Training Center in Carson, California; and Gulf Breeze, Florida as part of the Andrews Institute.