Research sheds light on injuries sustained by tactical athletes

Firefighters, police officers and military service members work in professions that require high levels of physical fitness to perform their duties and minimize the risk of injury. The demanding job of a tactical athlete can involve carrying heavy equipment — sometimes while facing life-threatening situations — as well as exposure to vehicle vibration or high g-forces in fighter jets.

Athletic trainers work with this unique population to develop intervention programs, and faculty and students in The University of Tulsa’s Oxley College of Health Sciences are working to advance those goals.

“Our research plays a critical role in helping us to gain a better understanding of the unique environment encountered by the tactical athlete,” said Roger Kollock, ATC, CSCS, assistant professor of athletic training and exercise sports science. “Government agencies in collaboration with qualified healthcare professionals can use these findings as a framework for new training standards and procedures that could mitigate the risk of musculoskeletal injury.”

Kollock began working with tactical athletes during his doctoral studies at Old Dominion University, and later as a postdoctoral research fellow at Auburn University’s distinguished Warrior Research Center.

His latest research focuses on optimizing health and performance of tactical athletes by identifying risk factors associated with musculoskeletal injuries sustained during work-related duties. In partnership with colleagues from other universities, he completed two studies recently published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

The articles are titled “A Meta-Analysis to Determine if Lower Extremity Muscle Strengthening Should Be Included in Military Knee Overuse Injury-Prevention Programs” and “Vehicle Exposure and Spinal Musculature Fatigue in Military Warfighters: A Meta-Analysis.” In the first article, Kollock examined 25 previous studies to determine whether knee and hip strength is a factor in knee overuse injuries for training, active-duty and reserve military personnel. The second analyzed the role vehicle exposure plays in spinal fatigue among warfighters.

“Reducing the number of musculoskeletal injuries would decrease health costs to taxpayers and number of work days lost per injury while improving employees’ health and future quality of life,” Kollock said.