It’s no secret that a firefighter’s work places incredible strain on the body. According to the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), sprains and strains account for 50% of all line-of-duty injuries, and back injuries result in approximately 50% of all line-of-duty retirements annually. In this article, we’ll share 3 ways to help you reduce the chance of a back injury.
1. Build Core Strength
As you might expect, exercise is a great way to reduce the probability of suffering an injury, especially sprains and strains. But in order to reduce your chances of suffering a back injury, it is essential that you develop core strength. Your core is your center. It links your upper body to your lower body and the related large muscle groups that are used most often when engaged in firefighting tasks. A weak core is like a broken link in a chain, often causing you to “compensate” by improperly using your lower back muscles. Including core strength exercises, such as plank variations, kettlebell swings, rack hold carries, push-ups, and supine leg raises will help you develop your core strength. For many more great core strength exercises, check out Firefighter Functional Fitness.
2. Improve Your Flexibility
A lack of flexibility translates to decreased mobility and range of motion, further challenging firefighters who are already restricted by turnout gear and heavy, cumbersome equipment. Remaining sedentary and ignoring the importance of flexibility will increase your chances of suffering a back injury. Incorporating simple flexibility movements into your workouts will go a long way toward managing your back injury risk. Three key stretches for improving your core flexibility are the Downward Dog Pose, the kneeling side stretch, and the Camel Pose.
Kneeling Side Stretch
Modified Camel Pose
3. Use Proper Lifting Techniques
Regardless of how much you can bench press or how strong you think you are, using proper body mechanics is also essential if you are going to reduce your chances of a back injury. Proper form always yields proper function and performance. Whether it is picking up and moving hose lines, lifting tools and equipment, raising ladders, lifting a patient, or any other fireground function, use these 5 tips for proper lifting:
- Keep your back straight
- Engage your core
- Lift with a stable base
- Use help when available
- Use handles, straps, and other ergonomic equipment
For even more tips on proper lifting techniques and to take your fitness and health to the next level, pick up a copy of Firefighter Functional Fitness. Learn more at FirefighterFunctionalFitness.com.