Firefighters perform a number of duties in hazardous environments for the purpose of preserving public safety; exposure to various physical and chemical hazards increases the risk of occupational injury in the firefighting profession.
With various factors such as physical fitness, structural layout of the building and protective equipment influencing the severity of injuries, proactive approaches can be undertaken in order to reduce the incidence of common lower limb injuries among firefighters.
A survey of the nature of on-duty injuries among Korean firefighters was conducted to further evaluate these injuries and to accordingly, formulate safety strategies that could improve the health and well-being of these individuals.
An interesting finding of the survey was that younger firefighters were found to be at a greater risk of injuries, which indicated that low job experience can increase the risk of injuries.
This necessitates the implementation of educational and training programmes for inexperienced firefighters in order to help protect them from common injuries and reduce the risk of occupational injuries.
Griffin et al. evaluated the efficacy of the Probationary Firefighter Fitness (PFF-Fit) programme for new firefighters by analysing injury outcomes as well as the return on investment; this programme was designed by researchers at the University of Arizona in partnership with the Tuscon Fire Department.
The lower extremity was determined to be the most frequently affected body part among the new recruits included in the study; majority of the injuries were sprains/strains with a mechanism of acute overexertion.
The authors observed reductions in injury frequency and compensation costs among PFF-Fit programme participants as compared to the control group, proving that increased physical fitness can help in preventing non-exercise related injuries among firefighters.
Gait changes among firefighters following a live fire training were explored in detail by Colburn et al. to find out whether higher levels of fitness could result in few changes to gait and balance.
The study revealed that single leg stance time, cycle time, and swing time decreased after firefighting activities; this may indicate that firefighters alter their gait with a slightly shortened stride in an attempt to compensate for their fatigue.
There is a possibility that changes in other unmeasured aspects of gait such as foot clearance, lower extremity kinematics or heel strike/toe-off forces, caused as a secondary effect of fatigue, can increase the risk of slips, trips and falls during fire suppression.
The prevalence of underlying foot postural disparities can further affect an individual’s balance and gait due to the compensatory movements undertaken by the lower extremity.
A hyperpronated foot, for instance, induces excessive medial femoral rotation in the lower extremity leading to massive changes in the pelvis, spine and sacroiliac joints.
Dysfunctional articulations within the foot joint complex affect the body’s proprioceptive capabilities, distorting coordination and balance throughout the spine and pelvis.
The result is a negative effect on gait and movement; the compensatory abnormalities that are associated with such a negative effect, cause considerable visual changes in the body that cannot be ignored.
MASS4D® customised foot orthotics can be used in conjunction with exercises meant for improved postural balance to build strength in the muscles of the feet; for this purpose, the orthotic can be calibrated to accommodate individual factors such as bodyweight, activity levels, foot flexibility and foot structure.
A high-calibre orthotic, such as the MASS4D® custom orthotic, aims to enhance balance and posture of the body by allowing for heightened proprioceptive action through the ankle and lower limbs for all types of daily activities.
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