TU receives grant to determine how to measure the physical readiness of firefighters

Firefighters often are required to perform high-intensity work within fire-engulfed structures. This unique work environment requires firefighters to wear specialized gear and equipment (e.g. self-contained breathing apparatus, turnout coat, pants, boots, hood, gloves and helmet) for safety while using tools to perform job-specific duties. The physical demands of firefighting evoke a significant activation of the cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal systems increasing the physiological and mechanical strain on the body. The heightened physiological and mechanical strain on the body can increase the risk for casualties at the fireground.

In order to help reduce the risk of fatal and non-fatal casualties, many municipalities require firefighters to complete some type of Physical Ability Test (PAT) to determine if a firefighter is physically ready to undergo the rigors of job-specific duties. However, there is little evidence to suggest that passing a PAT is an indicator that a firefighter is physically ready for duty.

A research team from The University of Tulsa is collaborating with the Tulsa Fire Department (TFD) has received a three-year, $114,000 health research grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) to investigate the validity of the PAT as an indicator of physical readiness in firefighters. The evidence obtained from this project will help support the ongoing measures by the TFD to enhance their physical readiness evaluation, reduce their overall casualty rate, and reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims for the City of Tulsa.

Roger Kollock, assistant professor of Athletic Training / Exercise & Sports Science in the Oxley College of Health Sciences, leads the research team. “This project represents The University of Tulsa’s commitment for community engagement to help address the needs of Oklahomans,” said Kollock. “Results of this project will directly benefit the City of Tulsa and TFD by providing valuable insight into the effectiveness of TFD’s current standard of practice for determining physical readiness.”

Members of the TU research team include:

Roger Kollock, PhD, ATC, CSCS
Assistant Professor of Athletic Training / Exercise & Sports Science
The University of Tulsa – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Davis Hale, PhD, CSCS
Assistant Professor of Athletic Training / Exercise & Sports Science
The University of Tulsa – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Collaborators outside of TU include:

Robert B. “R.B.” Ellis
Chief of Health and Safety
Tulsa Fire Department – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Will Peveler, PhD
Professor of Exercise Science
Liberty University – Lynchburg, Virginia

Gabriel Sanders, PhD, CSCS
Associate Professor Exercise Science
Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky

Project supporter:

OCAST, established by the Oklahoma legislature, is responsible for growing and diversifying the state’s economy through technology development and commercialization.