If you were thinking ‘what are common injuries for someone in the emergency services, you might immediately start assuming the worst. Law enforcement? Bullets. Firefighters? Burns. Search and rescue? Falls.
This isn’t the full story.
If any of these things occur, something has gone badly wrong and decades of planning, prevention, simulation and training have failed to adequately manage a scenario. At the bare minimum, there will be reviews, paperwork, and questions.
It isn’t catastrophic accidents which are the day to day enemies – in fact, both acute and chronic pain come from common injuries and are straightforward.
WHY DO COMMON INJURIES HAPPEN?
All emergency services share some attributes:
-Chronic loading of the body with equipment (bunker gear, tool/gun belt, breathing apparatus etc.)
-Long sedentary periods – behind a desk, in the firehouse, in a car, etc. These are occasionally punctuated with furious high-intensity activity.
Put all that together and the most common injuries are slips, strains, falls, overexertion and chronic degenerative conditions. In other words, things you can train to avoid.
UNILATERAL LUMBAR STRAIN FROM ASYMMETRIC LOAD
This is just a fancy way of saying ‘you carried someone whose weight wasn’t evenly distributed across your body, and now one side of your back hurts… a lot.
Hauling people, hauling LDH, moving obstacles – these objects aren’t balanced like barbells. They’re slippery, off-center and they don’t have convenient handholds. And often they need to be moved under pressure.
To train to avoid this, you need to train the anti-rotation capacity of your spine under load – it needs to lock in place when it gets where it’s going, and resist the rotational force applied to it.
-Anti-rotation hold with band (don’t be afraid to go heavy)
-Suitcase deadlifts (load these VERY slowly and be absolutely scrupulous with your form)
NECK AND UPPER BACK ‘PAIN’
How often have you heard someone complain about this? Not since yesterday, right?
A lot of sitting down in cars and reading off screens is trouble for the integration between your postural muscles and your spine. Following this condition immediately with intense activity can add acute pain to a chronic problem.
One of the quickest and most straightforward targets for addressing this is thoracic spine mobility: this is the place your spine “wants” to bend. Make sure it can!
DEGENERATIVE HIP AND LOWER BACK CONDITIONS
A duty belt is heavy, and it lives on you. While there are alternatives (vests and shoulder hooks, for instance) they aren’t always available. And they might not always help – load is load.
For back injuries, prevention is always, ALWAYS better than cure. Ask anyone with a chronic back condition. In this case, ‘cure’ may involve rehab, and/or surgical treatment for disc herniation.
Prevention is – as might be expected – getting stronger. Stronger muscles and thicker ligaments/tendons/bones means better weight distribution and lower proportional loading. For this, we need to train hard and heavy and, most importantly, early.
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