JAN 2017

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I t is a well-known fact that the number one killer of firefighters is stress or overexertion causing sudden cardiac death. Clearly something is missing in our preparation to be physically fit to fight fire. The Indiana University research emphatically states, "The discrepancy between the physical preparedness of fire- fighters and the high demand of firefighting stands at the center of fire service line-of- duty deaths." Leading that research is Dr. Jim Brown, director of Firefighter Health & Safety Research, who explains, "Devel- opment of an effective physical training program begins with the identification of demand levels a job or event presents." 1 There are a variety of factors unique to firefighting that call for specific training and adaptations. Some of the widely stud- ied elements are the weight of our gear and the increase in body temperature. Some of the less discussed, but equally important, factors are the effect that SCBA has on our ability to work and the psychologi- cal impacts of our equipment. We must consistently train on these specific compo- nents of our profession to drive adaptation. But what about those of us who not only want to survive on the fireground, but also set the example and excel as aggres- sive interior firefighters? If you are a tacti- cal athlete and your sport is fighting fire, your training must match that. We can all guess what would happen if we took a marathon runner and put him or her in bunker gear, strapped them in an SCBA, put a charged 1¾-inch line in their hands and pushed them into a burning house. As great of a runner as they might be, they will be overwhelmed by the task. How about the other end of the spectrum? A powerlifter who bench-presses 500 pounds will find themselves in the same boat as the mara- thon runner because neither of these ath- letes have trained for the specific stresses and adaptations that fighting fire requires. A fire athlete must train to be fit for the fire. Measuring fitness Every sport has measurements to tell you how well an athlete has performed, or is expected to perform. In firefighting, the most vital measurement may be VO 2 max. VO 2 max is the maximal oxygen uptake or the maximum volume of oxy- gen that can be utilized during maximal or exhaustive exercise; it is considered the best indicator of cardiorespiratory endur- ance. And it has been shown to be one the best predictors for success for passing the CPAT. 2 VO 2 max has been consistently identified as an important factor in the association of firefighting demands and physiological requirements. 1 VO 2 max is measured in mL/kg/min, with the minimum level recommended for firefighters, as determined by the IAFF, set at 42 mL/kg/min. 3 It has been shown that individuals with VO 2 max values below 33.5 mL/kg/min are unable to complete a standard fire suppression protocol. 1 To directly compare this to other sports, search and rescue is as intense as, or even more intense than, pro football, requiring an energy expenditure of up to 16 METs (metabolic equivalent), which equates to a VO 2 max of 56 mL/kg/min. 4 HEALTH & WELLNESS By Justin C. Dickstein JUSTIN C. DICKSTEIN is a captain in the Garland, TX, Fire Department. He has been a frontline officer in responses to an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack and an EF4 tornado. He has a bachelor's and master's degree from The University of Texas at Austin. He is a co-author of The Station-Ready Rookie and the creator of the BlastMask training regulator ( What Does It Mean to Be Fit for the Fire? Practicing how you play will help improve VO 2 max and prepare you both mentally and physically The SCBA has physiological and psychological effects that build on each other. As such, we must train in full equipment to be ready to do the job in that gear. Photos by Timothy Wagner 56 l Firehouse l January 2017

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