• Injury Prevention in Pre-Hospital EMS
    A functional fitness plan, with the proper assessments, can help EMS personnel avoid those injuries that could keep them out of work.
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  • Injury Prevention EMS_thumbIn 2007, there were approximately 274,549 pre-hospital emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in the United States (1). According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there were 23,300 documented injuries or illnesses among EMS personnel in 2009.

    The most common injuries were sprains and strains to the trunk, hand, and leg related to bodily reaction and exertion while on duty, and more than one-third of these injuries were related to interactions with a patient (2). Many EMS personnel face physically demanding tasks while on duty that must be completed in awkward positions.

    However, despite this, there is a lack of fitness tests or physical assessments conducted (or any other intervention for that matter) within many of the organizations that manage or hire EMS personnel, that prepare them for occupational rigors.

    Injury-Prone Profession
    In a 2007 study, Peate et al. found that when a core strength and functional movement enhancement program was implemented within firefighting populations (n = 433), a reduction of 62% was seen in lost time due to injuries, and injuries decreased by 42% over a 12-month period (3).

    Though the study’s participants were firefighters, EMS personnel may face similar working conditions, and census data suggests that many EMS personnel are dual professionals. Firefighters and EMS personnel may be required to conduct “rescues that are injury prone because of maneuvers that compromise trunk stability and ergonomically hazardous conditions,” (3). In this particular study, researchers utilized the functional movement screen (FMS) to evaluate movement patterns of study participants as “those with lower performance scores have been found to be more likely to sustain an injury,” (3).

    Functional Movement Screens
    The FMS may be an ideal testing tool for EMS populations for many reasons. The test is cost-efficient when comparing the cost of testing equipment to the large number of personnel that will be tested within a department.

    The testing equipment is relatively small in size and weight, making mobile testing a viable option among several department interested in the implementation of the grading system. Also, testing requires very little space, so with the appropriately trained staff member conducting the evaluation, the FMS can be completed virtually anywhere.

    This is just one suggestion for injury risk assessment within a population noted to experience a much larger than average number of work-related injuries and/or illnesses. Research within this specific population appears to be sparse, so there is still much to learn on effective injury prevention interventions for EMS personnel.

    The message that remains clear, however, is that there is a definite need within this profession because when EMS personnel are injured, they are unable to help those whose lives may depend on their job performance.

    Don’t know what the FMS is? Read Hot Topic: Functional Movement Screen

  • Suggested Further Reading
    • Heard C. How to Start and Continue a Physical Fitness Program. TSAC Report Issue 24: 24.6, 2012. Accessed at http://www.nsca.com/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147485394.
    • McNamara J. Building an Exercise Program that Includes Core Training. Performance Training Journal 10 (5): 17-19, 2011.
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    About the Author:

    Katie Miller, RD, LDN, CSCS

    Katie Miller, RD, LDN, CSCS, is a registered dietitian with dual bachelor degrees in criminal justice and nutrition and dietetics. She has served as a police officer in her previous local community, has trained with the Marine Corps, and currently trains with the U.S. Army as a commissioned officer. At the NSCA, Katie currently works as a nutrition consultant and tactical athlete coordinator.


    1. Chapman SA, Lindler V, Kaiser JA, Nielsen CS, Bates T, Hailer-O’Keefe L, Skillman SM, Patterson DG, Dawson D, and Wijetunge G. EMS Workforce for the 21st Century: A National Assessment. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008. Accessed on October 19, 2012 at http://www.ems.gov/pdf/EMSWorkforceReport_June2008.pdf.
    2. Emergency Medical Services Workers: Injury and Illness Data. CDC Website. Accessed on October 17, 2012 at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ems/data2009.html, 2009.
    3. Peate WF, Bates G, Lunda K, Francis S, and Bellamy K. Core Strength: A new model for injury prediction and prevention. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2(3): 101-109, 2007.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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