Exercise science students test firefighters to prevent heart attacks and strokes
Three of Lee’s own exercise science students performed tests at the Cleveland Fire Department in an effort to help firefighters avoid their number one killer.
Under the supervision of Department Chair of Health, Exercise Science and Secondary Education Dr. Mike Iosia, exercise science majors Benjamin Vigil, Jayme Kizer and Rebecca Brewer took a trip to the Cleveland Fire Department, where firemen allowed them to perform tests on their risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Racheal Lawler, clinical education coordinator and professor in athletic training at Lee, said why she believes this hands-on training is valuable to students.
“It is a research line that is limited by nothing but our imaginations,” Lawler said. “Students going into health professions have so much untapped research to be done with this.”
According to Lawler, firefighters are often overlooked but very much in need of the tests and research information.
“Firefighters are really an untapped market. They’re very much athletes. They have to stay hydrated and in shape,” Lawler said. “This test shows their water levels, which is the emphasis. But the study the students are doing with this could lead to showing the before-and-after of someone that has been hurt doing something—which would, in turn, give them ways to study how to prevent those injuries.”
But why are the water levels the emphasis? Captain Pete Van Dusen of the Cleveland Fire Department said the tests helped the firefighters to keep their bodies safe from dehydration. The tests not only give insight into each firefighter’s fitness level but also into how they can prevent internal injuries caused by low water levels.
“The suits we wear insulate us from many elements, but that also causes serious hydration issues while wearing them,” Van Dusen said. “The number one killer of firefighters is cardiovascular issues like heart attacks and strokes, so we really focus on health and fitness, which this testing could help with.”
Van Dusen is not far off. According to the American Journal of Cardiology, the leading cause of death in firefighters over the age of 45 is sudden cardiac death, or SCD. The National Fire Protection Association reported similar findings, with 38% of all firefighter deaths caused by SCD as of June of 2017.
According to Brewer, the firemen first gave urine samples that show specific gravity, the overall hydration levels in the firefighters' bodies. They were then tested using a machine called the InBody Composition Analyzer, which tests the levels of hydration in particular parts of the body.
“They type name, height and age in the machine then step on with clean, bare feet, holding the handles while making sure their armpits are not touching their body,” Brewer said. “Then they just stand there, and it calculates everything then prints out paper with the information.”
The InBody Composition Analyzer, combined with the urine test, gave the students a more in-depth insight into how SCD-related deaths and injuries can be further prevented.
For more information about the Exercise Science program and their research, contact Dr. Mike Iosia at firstname.lastname@example.org.