R. Orr1, J. Dawes2, R. Lockie3, D. Ferguson4, R. Pope5, B. Schram1
1Bond University, Tactical Research Unit, Robina, Australia, 2Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, United States, 3California State University, Fullerton, United States, 4Bond University, Health Sciences and Medicine, Robina, Australia, 5Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia

Background: Police officers are required to perform physically demanding tasks as part of their occupational duties. To prepare officers for these duties, new trainees must complete police officer training. However, this training can lead to injuries and employment failure.

Purpose: To determine the relationships between initial aerobic performance assessments and injury risk during police training to inform recruitment and return-to-training protocols.

Methods: Retrospective data from 219 police trainees undergoing a 12-week police training program at a state police training academy were collected. No demographic information was provided to the researchers due to security reasons. However, all participants were at least 18 years of age and had a medical clearance from a General Practitioner prior to training commencement. The Bond University Human Research Ethics Committee approved this archival data study (RO1898). Aerobic fitness data included 20-m Multistage Fitness Test (MSFT) and 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test (IFT) scores collected during the first week of training. Injury data were collected as part of departmental procedures. For this study, an injury was defined as physical damage to the musculoskeletal system determined by the medical staff who, given the retrospective nature of the study, were also blinded to the study. Aerobic fitness data were sorted into categories for descriptive analysis. For the MSFT these reflected total number of shuttles completed and for the 30-15 IFT, the number of levels completed. The proportion of recruits in each fitness category that were injured was calculated as (count of injured recruits within category)/ (number of recruits within category) x 100%, and 95% confidence intervals around these proportions were calculated and plotted. Correlation analyses were used to determine the relationship between the two fitness assessments and between fitness scores and injury rates, with alpha set at 0.05, a priori. Considering 219 subjects, an effect size (ES) of 0.3 (i.e., small-moderate ES) and alpha level at 0.05, the calculated statistical power was 0.996 for Pearson’s correlation analyses.

Results: The mean MSFT score for recruits who suffered an injury was significantly lower (t [108.19]=4.617, p<0.01) than for those who were not injured (55.05±14.20 vs 65.60±16.25 shuttles, respectively). The mean IFT score of injured recruits was significantly lower (t[115.19]=5.25, p=0.001) than that for non-injured recruits (Level 15.68±1.41 vs Level 16.89±1.71, respectively). Spearman’s correlation analysis revealed a significant negative correlation between levels of fitness (MSFT rs=-0.292, p<0.001: IFT rs=- 0.315, p<0.001) and rates of injury. A Pearson’s correlation showed a strong correlation between MSFT and IFT scores (r=0.877, p<0.001).

Conclusion(s): Police recruits with lower aerobic fitness levels at training commencement, measured by either the MSFT or IFT, were at a higher risk of injury than those with higher levels of fitness over the duration of a recruit training program.

Implications: These findings indicate that aerobic performance assessments may be used by law enforcement agencies to estimate relative risks of injury among trainees and by physiotherapists in ensuring trainees are fit enough to return-to-training following injury.

Funding, acknowledgements: Nil

Keywords: law enforcement, rehabilitation, return-to-training

Topic: Occupational health & ergonomics

Did this work require ethics approval? Yes
Institution: Bond University
Committee: Bond University Human Research Ethics Committee
Ethics number: RO1898

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

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