D. Maupin1, B. Schram1, E. Canetti1, R. Orr1
1Bond University, Tactical Research Unit, Robina, Australia

Background: Injuries in law enforcement are a significant issue that increase organizational costs and workforce strain. Injury prevention is especially important for police recruits who suffer injuries at a higher rate. As one of the best predictors of injury risk is previous injury, minimizing first time injuries suffered during academy can have multiple beneficial effects including a healthier police force. Injury prevention strategies need to be informed by specific injury profiling.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to profile the injuries sustained by recruits and the activities being performed at the time of injury at a law enforcement academy to inform injury mitigation strategies.

Methods: A cross-sectional design was implemented using recruit injury data from  a US law enforcement agency. Injury data were provided from the official records of the police agency and included: injury date, body site, nature of injury, activity performed during injury, a narrative description of the incident, and ICD-10 codes. Injury incidence rates were calculated per recruit per week, per recruit per year, and per 100 recruits per year. As academy length varied from 20 to 22 weeks over the seven-year period, overall incidence rates were calculated as well as individual incidence rates for both timeframes. Proportions regarding the site of injury, nature of injury, and activity of injury were calculated. International Review Board ethics was provided for this research by California State University, Fullerton (HSR-17-0037).

Results: For 20-week academy programs the injury incidence rate was 0.26 injuries per recruit per year or 25.57 per 100 recruits per year. For 22-week programs, the injury incidence rate  was 0.47 per recruit per year or 46.72 per 100 recruits per year. Overall, there was an injury incidence rate of 0.41 injuries per recruit per year, and 41.07 injuries per 100 recruits per year. The most common nature of injury was trauma to joints and ligaments (44% of injuries), followed by injury to muscle (24%) and medical conditions (10%). The knee was the most common location of injury (21%) followed by the ankle (12%) and lower leg (10%). Physical training was the most common activity being performed at time of injury (59%), followed by defensive tactics (19%), and unknown activity (11%).

Conclusion(s): Unlike other studies of police recruit injuries which show the shoulder as the most common injured site, in this population the knee was the leading body site thus highlighting the importance of individual agency injury profiling. However, similar natures of injury (sprains and strains) were seen. Physical training was a major source of injuries and should form the basis of injury mitigation strategies. One such strategy could be optimizing the physical training load to decrease the injury risk.

Implications: Physiotherapists working with police organizations should ensure injury prevention strategies are informed by injury profiling specific to each training location with a specific focus on those leading to joints and ligament injuries.

Funding, acknowledgements: This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship

Keywords: Law Enforcement, Injury Risk, Physical Training

Topic: Occupational health & ergonomics

Did this work require ethics approval? Yes
Institution: California State University Fullerton
Committee: California State University Fullerton Institutional Review Board
Ethics number: HSR-17-0037

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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