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Firefighter injuries pile up, Western University study finds

February 20, 2018

Western University researchers are getting a clearer glimpse into so-called working wounded firefighters — and who is most at risk — in a new 13-month study they hope will pave the way for better workplace injury prevention strategies.

The chances of a firefighter suffering from persistent neck, back and limb pain is linked to how long they’ve been on the front lines, the co-authored study with McMaster University shows.

Of the 294 Hamilton firefighters who participated in the research, 70 per cent had at least some pain in their arms, legs and back during that time. Forty-two per cent had pain in multiple places, researchers found.

By contrast to the large amount of working wounded firefighters, only about 16 per cent of adult Canadians suffered activity-limiting injuries, 2013 Statistics Canada data shows.

The Western and McMaster research is the first to predict by age, sex and length of service which firefighters are most prone to injuries.

“They call themselves the working wounded sometimes, because they’re well aware they’re suffering musculoskeletal issues,” physical therapy professor Joy MacDermid said in a statement.

The data collected in the co-authored paper suggests the cumulative effects of pulling, twisting and turning have long-term impacts on firefighters’ bodies. Firefighters often crouch, twist and climb while carrying 50 kilograms of gear.

MacDermid, who is also a scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute, hopes their findings will help workplaces reduce injury risks and help firefighters have longer, healthier careers.

“Our members get hurt doing their duties,” Hamilton Fire Department Captain Rob D’Amico said in a statement.

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