Evaluation of the relationship between occupational-specific task performance and measures of physical fitness, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health in firefighters

Jaron Ras, Elpidoforos S. Soteriades, Denise L. Smith, Andre P. Kengne, Lloyd Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Firefighters are required to perform physically strenuous tasks such as hose drags, victim rescues, forcible entries and stair climbs to complete their public safety mission. Occupational-specific tasks are often used to evaluate the ability of firefighters to adequately/safely perform their duties. Depending on the regions, occupational-specific tasks include six to eight individual tasks, which emphasize distinct aspects of their physical fitness, while also requiring different levels of cardiovascular (CVH) and musculoskeletal health (MSH). Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between specific occupational task performance and measures of physical fitness, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, 282 full-time male and female firefighters were recruited. A researcher-generated questionnaire and physical measures were used to collect data on sociodemographic characteristics, CVH, MSH and weekly physical activity habits. Physical measures were used to collect data on physical fitness and occupational-specific task performance. Results: Absolute cardiorespiratory fitness (abV̇O2max), grip strength, leg strength, push-ups, sit-ups and lean body mass (all p < 0.001) had an inverse association with completion times on all occupational-specific tasks. Age was positively related to the performance of all tasks (all p < 0.05). Higher heart rate variability (HRV) was associated with better performance on all tasks (all p < 0.05). Bodyfat percentage (BF%) and diastolic blood pressure were positively associated with the step-up task (p < 0.05). Lower back musculoskeletal injury (LoBMSI), musculoskeletal discomfort (MSD), and lower limb MSD were associated with a decreased odds of passing the step-up. Upper body MSIs (UBMSI), LoBMSIs and Lower back MSD were associated with decreased odds of passing the rescue drag. Conclusion: Firefighters that were taller, leaner, stronger and fitter with a more favourable CVH profile, higher HRV and less musculoskeletal discomfort performed best on all occupational-specific tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalBMC public health
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Discomfort
  • Endurance
  • Firefighting
  • Hypertension
  • Injury
  • Obesity
  • Physical fitness
  • Strength
  • Task performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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