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Study Will Look at How Tulsa Firefighters' Physical Ability Test Relates to On-The-Job Injuries

Tulsa Fire Department

University of Tulsa researchers and the Tulsa Fire Department want to know whether firefighters’ annual physical ability test can predict and prevent injuries.

Over three years, they’ll look at whether scores on job-specific tests like stair climbs, hose drags and dummy rescues are predictors of injuries and how they relate to laboratory measures of fitness.

"Is it heavily correlated or associated with anaerobic and aerobic fitness, or strength and power — whole-body strength and power — right? Which we know are important elements within performing the duties of a firefighter," said lead investigator Roger Kollock, an assistant professor in the Oxley College of Health Sciences' kinesiology and rehabilitative sciences department.

Sprains and strains from slips and falls are among TFD’s most prevalent injuries. Kollock said those may not always happen just because of slick floors.

"Sometimes, it could be that you just lack balance and stability, right? So, if you have poor balance and stability, your chances for potentially falling are a lot greater, especially if we’re talking that you have to jump over an obstacle or step down stairs, things like that," Kollock said.

TFD Health and Safety Chief R.B. Ellis said the goal is reducing injuries, which can contribute to chronic health problems later in life.

"The whole thing’s about making guys where they retire healthy. We’ve got a job that we do every day, but we also want to make sure that guys are going to be able to enjoy their retirement," Ellis said.

Study results are expected in 2021 and could be used to tweak the physical ability test. The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology awarded the study a $114,000 health research grant.

KWGS is licensed by TU.