Today I’m embarking on a big topic within the fire service: back injuries. The video below features a fellow scientist who studies spine health and has done some research specifically on firefighters.
This 4-minute video busts the 6 biggest myths about training for optimal back health, and shows a few simple exercises that will significantly improve your core strength and lower your risk of experiencing back pain or a back injury. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to discuss each of these myths separately. Next, I will detail the exercises that firefighters should be avoiding and those you should be doing. Below the video I discuss myth #1 in more depth.
Myth #1: back injuries are rare
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters have the single highest rate of absenteeism (missing work due to injury/illness) of any profession. They are 4 times more likely to experience an injury compared to other physically demanding professions (like construction and agriculture) and 12 times more likely than all other workers. Injuries caused by overexertion are the most common type experienced by firefighters, and back injuries account for 50% of those.
Furthermore, many many firefighters experience chronic back pain that may never be diagnosed as a full blown injury. Sometimes pain is a sign that an injury is going to occur while other times pain is the long-term result of an injury. There are things you can do to treat back pain and to prevent a full blown injury.
The greatest predictor of a firefighter experiencing a back injury is having suffered from one already, so avoiding an injury in the first place is paramount. That’s why over the next few weeks I’ll be showing you the exercises you should be doing to avoid a back injury (and they’re simpler than you think!), so stay tuned.
Other myths in this series:
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