Climbing the Ranks: A Study of Firefighter Health Disparities

Abstract

The fire service command structure encompasses recruit, incumbent firefighter, and officer positions. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effect of rank (recruits, incumbent firefighters, and officers) on health and physical ability characteristics within the fire service. Retrospective data from thirty-seven recruits (age = 29 ± 5 yrs, BMI = 26.5 ± 2.3 kg/m2); eighty-two incumbent firefighters (age = 30 ± 7 yrs, BMI = 28.8 ± 4.3 kg/m2); and forty-one officers (age = 41 ± 6 yrs, BMI = 28.6 ± 4.3 kg/m2) from a single department were used. Participants completed body composition tests (i.e., body fat percentage [%BF] and body mass index [BMI]), an air consumption test (ACT), and cardiopulmonary exercise testing. The ACT consisted of 10 standardized tasks. Five separate one-way analyses of co-variance (ANCOVA) were calculated, accounting for age. Partial eta squared statistics were calculated and Bonferroni-corrected post-hoc analyses were employed. The results demonstrated a significant effect of rank on %BF (F = 9.61, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.10); BMI (F = 3.45, p = 0.02, η2 = 0.05); relative VO2MAX (F = 12.52, p < 0.001; η2 = 0.11); and HRMAX (F = 18.89, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.03), but not on ACT time (F = 0.71, p = 0.55, η2 = 0.01). These outcomes suggest there are variations in anthropometric and physiological metrics of health across firefighter ranks. Administrators should be aware how these markers of health may vary across firefighter ranks.

Description

© 2024 by the authors. cc-by

Keywords

aerobic capacity, first responders, obesity, occupational performance, tactical

Citation

Hare, M.M., Wohlgemuth, K.J., Jesko, A., Conner, M.J., Frost-Piedrahita, V., & Mota, J.A.. 2024. Climbing the Ranks: A Study of Firefighter Health Disparities. Healthcare (Switzerland), 12(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare12020227

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