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Firefighters and Physical Function: Should There Be Annual Testing?
2018 ACSM National Conference
  • Hyosung Han, University of the Pacific
  • Alexis C. King, University of the Pacific
  • J. Mark Van Ness, University of the Pacific
  • Cynthia Villalobos, University of the Pacific
  • Courtney D. Jensen, University of the Pacific
J. Mark Van Ness: 0000-0001-5902-8735
Document Type
Conference Presentation
Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Department
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Minneapolis, MN
Conference Dates
May 29 - June 2, 2018
Date of Presentation
Journal Publication
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Publication Date

There are more than a million actively employed firefighters in the United States. To qualify as a firefighter, one must pass the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), a vigorous assessment of strength and endurance. Following the CPAT, there is no national or state mandate to evaluate fitness or uphold a standard of minimum physical competency. Although strength, endurance, and mobility are critical to job performance, data concerning the preservation of function throughout a firefighter’s career are scarce.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the physical functioning of firefighters.

METHODS: We enrolled 35 firefighters in California, collected demographic data, and performed a battery of tests, which included anthropometric assessments, grip strength, sit-and-reach, shoulder flexibility, vertical jump, push-ups, curl-ups, and VO2 max. We compared mean data to normative data and used multiple linear regression to test the effect of age on physical functioning, holding potential confounders constant.

RESULTS: On average, firefighters were 33.5 ± 11.8 years of age and performed 23.9 ± 3.1 curl-ups, 32.2 ± 12.3 push-ups, had a vertical jump of 59.6 ± 10.4 cm, mean L/R grip strength of 66.0 ± 12.9 kg, sit-and-reach of 5.2 ± 9.1 cm, shoulder flexibility of 20.2 ± 6.8 cm, and VO2 max of 40.1 ± 10.8 ml/kg/min. Compared to normative data, the mean firefighter had excellent grip strength, excellent push-ups, above average vertical jump, average shoulder flexibility, below average curl-ups, poor sit-and-reach, and poor VO2 max; 94.1% of firefighters were classified as poor in sit-and-reach and 58.1% were classified as poor or very poor in VO2 max. Linear regression did not find age to be a significant predictor of sit-and- reach (p=0.167) or VO2 max (p=0.319) holding other significant predictors constant.

CONCLUSION: In general, firefighters performed competently in assessments of strength, but poorly in flexibility and aerobic capacity. Age was not a significant predictor of performance in either assessment; the implication is that duration spent as a firefighter is not related to functional decline. There may not be a need for firefighters to complete periodic CPAT assessments, but they should be encouraged to improve capacities of endurance and flexibility.

Citation Information
Hyosung Han, Alexis C. King, J. Mark Van Ness, Cynthia Villalobos, et al.. "Firefighters and Physical Function: Should There Be Annual Testing?" 2018 ACSM National Conference Vol. 50 Iss. 5s (2018) p. 358 ISSN: 1530-0315
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