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Physiological recovery from firefighting activities in rehabilitation and beyond.

Horn GP; Gutzmer S; Fahs CA; Petruzzello SJ; Goldstein E; Fahey GC; Fernhall B; Smith DL
Prehosp Emerg Care 2011 Apr-Jun; 15(2):214-225
OBJECTIVES: The primary objective of this study was to document the timeline of physiologic recovery from firefighting activities in order to inform emergency medical services (EMS) of vital sign values that might be expected during incident rehabilitation and in developing rehabilitation protocols to make decisions about when to return personnel to the fireground. Secondarily, we compared two different incident rehabilitation strategies to determine effectiveness in reducing physiologic strain following firefighting. METHODS: A repeated-measures randomized crossover design was utilized in which firefighters conducted a controlled set of firefighting activities, after which they completed incident rehabilitation in one of two conditions: 1) similar to currently used rehabilitation protocols and 2) with active cooling and nutritional intervention. Following 15 minutes of rehabilitation, each firefighter was asked to perform a simulated rescue "dummy drag" and then recover for 120 minutes in a quiet area. Core temperature and heart rate were recorded throughout the study. Blood pressures and subendocardial viability ratios were obtained before firefighting, after firefighting, and at standardized times during rehabilitation and recovery. RESULTS: Heart rate and core temperature increased during firefighting, and core temperature continued to increase for 7 minutes after completion of firefighting activities. These values did not return to baseline until at least 50 minutes after firefighting activity. Systolic blood pressures were significantly reduced during rehabilitation (15.2 percent), and recovered 7.7 percent during the first 30 minutes of recovery, but remained significantly lower than before firefighting for at least 120 minutes. An index of subendocardial perfusion was also significantly depressed for up to 110 minutes after firefighters. Differences between rehabilitation protocols were minimal. CONCLUSIONS: The timeline for recovery from firefighting activities is significantly longer than the typical 10-20-minute rehabilitation period that often is provided on the fireground. Modifications from the current rehabilitation protocol do not appear to improve the recovery timeline when rehabilitation is conducted in a cool room. While firefighters often are concerned about elevated blood pressures, this study suggests that firefighters and EMS personnel should also be cognizant of the potential dangers of hypotension.
Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Physiological-effects; Physiological-fatigue; Physiological-response; Emergency-responders; Emergency-response; Emergency-treatment; Emergency-care; Medical-care; Medical-treatment; Rescue-measures; Rescue-workers; Vital-capacity; Work-capability; Work-capacity; Work-performance; Job-stress; Physiological-measurements; Physiological-stress; Physiological-testing; Work-intervals; Rest-periods; Task-performance; Biological-effects; Body-temperature; Heart-rate; Blood-pressure; Cardiac-function; Systolic-pressure; Tension; Myocardium; Cryotherapy; Temperature-effects; Hot-environments; Cold-environments; Nutrition; Author Keywords: rehabilitation; blood pressure; body temperature; heart rate; firefighter
Gavin Horn, PhD, University of Illinois Fire Service Institute, 11 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820
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Journal Article
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Prehospital Emergency Care
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division