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Preventing Firefighter Injuries

October 11, 2023

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A recent article in the Daily Dispatch announces Georgia Southern University was awarded a 1.1 million dollar grant from FEMA to help researchers assist firefighters with injury mitigation, better work outcomes, and reduction in financial burdens. The article states that this integrative approach brings the best human performance practices to first responders, infusing strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, nutrition specialists, and mental skill experts. Fire Headlines host Samantha Didion joins the panel of Chiefs Bob Horton and Jeff Buchanan to speak with organizational psychologist, owner, and principal consultant for FR Strategies, Dr. Andrew Holter, on preventing injuries of all kinds in the fire service.

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Discuss preventing firefighter injuries in the latest episode of Western Fire Chiefs Association’s Fire Headlines Podcast featuring Dr. Andrew Holter.

Preventing Firefighter Injuries

A recent article in the Daily Dispatch announces Georgia Southern University was awarded a 1.1 million dollar grant from FEMA to help researchers assist firefighters with injury mitigation, better work outcomes, and reduction in financial burdens. The article states that this integrative approach brings the best human performance practices to first responders, infusing strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, nutrition specialists, and mental skill experts. Fire Headlines host Samantha Didion joins the panel of Chiefs Bob Horton and Jeff Buchanan to speak with an organizational psychologist, owner, and principal consultant for FR Strategies, Dr. Andrew Holter, on preventing injuries of all kinds in the fire service.

Integrative Approach for Health in the Fire Service

Chief Buchanan recalls his time in the fire service when guidance on nutrition and a framework on physical ability were available to him and his crew. What caught his attention in this study, however, is the new integrative approach it outlines. This approach has evolved from what he used during the prime of his firefighting career.

Chief Buchanan highlights the study’s four critical elements for maintaining well-rounded health in firefighters, “One is nutrition. Two is physical activity. Three is our PPE. And then four is sleep. And I really hope that this integrative study incorporates all of them because together they are all huge contributing factors to illness and injury and firefighters.” Dr. Holter agrees with Chief Buchanan’s points and gives the organizational perspective of culture. He states that happy workers are less likely to get injured at work and they are looking to cut fewer corners.

Firefighters vs. Advanced Athletes

Chief Horton shares that some larger fire departments have rather aggressive wellness programs that have physical therapists and athletic trainers on staff, similar to sports teams. Chief Horton believes a majority of professional athletes are successful because they have resources such as these at their disposal to make them feel and perform better. Consider the impact if every fire department had access to these resources for their firefighters. Although firefighting can be compared to professional athletes in terms of having a physically demanding job, Chief Horton argues that there are many differences between the two careers.

One major difference is if an athlete is not performing well they are cut from the team, which does not happen in the fire service. Another point of comparison is the typically shorter career span of a professional athlete in contrast to the longer career duration of a firefighter. This distinction may explain why athletes are being paid or incentivized in other ways than firefighters. Dr. Holter says it is important to look at the full life cycle of a firefighter and continue to improve upon ways to keep that individual in serviceable condition throughout the next 25 to 30 years of their career.

Contact Dr. Andrew Holter: www.FR-Strategies.com.

You can email Fire Headlines at [email protected].

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