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Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention: Protect Yourself from on-the-job Injuries (Part II)

What Studies Show

The International Association of Fire Fighters' annual Death and Injury Survey reveals that sprains and strains routinely account for approximately 50% of all line-of-duty injuries and back injuries account for approximately 50% of all line-of-duty injury retirements each year.Although most musculoskeletal injury studies and statistics don't focus directly on EMS personnel, the NAEMT reports that almost half of the respondents (47% of the 1,356 participating NAEMT members) to a 2005 survey had reportedly sustained a back injury while performing EMS duties. We can further extrapolate the provider's risks by examining other professions with similar manual duties. For example, studies that examine the work-related injuries of health-care providers and firefighters demonstrate a direct correlation between job duties and musculoskeletal injuries.

A study by the University of Illinois found that "work related injury rates in the fire service industry exceed those from most other industries." In this study, the authors explain that the 1,342 claims collected from 1992 to 1999 point to overexertion, typically of the back, as the agent responsible for more than one-third of the injuries to firefighters, with those injuries resulting in nearly double the cost of all other types of injury claims.

Musculoskeletal Health

Musculoskeletal health is dependent on strength and flexibility, but it's also dependent on overall good health. The human body can be likened to a magnificent orchestra. When any instrument is out of tune, it threatens the whole performance. Music takes practice and attention to detail. Fortunately, for us, our bodies are more forgiving than the Philharmonic Orchestra and we have infinite back-up systems. In fact, our physiology is designed to instantly regulate functions to maintain balance. But without proper maintenance, this balancing act is far less efficient.Whether sitting, standing, lifting a stretcher or heavy equipment, bending, kneeling, working across a patient, or carrying patients up- and downstairs, good posture is extremely important. For example, sitting in poor posture can put stress on areas of the body that were never designed to hold so much weight by themselves. When the head is positioned forward of the shoulders to read a computer screen, the head is supported only by the neck in flexion. Over time, this posture can cause pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders and lower back. Ergonomically designed desks, monitor stands, and chairs help provide the right environment for proper posture. Training and education can also help staff maintain appropriate body alignment.

The musculoskeletal system is not the only system that stands to benefit from a healthy lifestyle. A well-conditioned body, good nutrition, and healthy habits strengthen the immune system and discourage a whole host of maladies. A healthy body can better withstand the garden-variety stressors as well as the extreme stressors that are the hallmarks of the EMS profession.

Jump back to Part 1

Read more in Part 3


Source: Barbara Dailey,