First global study finds physical impact on law enforcement recruits

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Newswise – For the first time, a new study has identified the number and type of injuries commonly suffered by police recruits during their academy training, an important step to ensure new officers can in the future meet physical standards while reducing the risk of injury.

Researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) have analyzed injuries sustained by Western Australian police recruits between 2018 and 2021, making WA Police the first police organization in the world to examine recruit injuries with so many details.

The team identified the most common injury types and affected body regions, while identifying the most disruptive injuries to recruit training and the most susceptible demographics.

ECU lead researcher Dr Myles Murphy said the information could be used to help agencies around the world.

“We found fewer than ten studies of injury patterns among law enforcement recruits around the world, including organizations such as the FBI,” he said.

“And that’s just the injuries they sustain, not to mention the risk factors.

“From an injury prevention perspective, police recruits around the world have not been at the forefront. So far.”

Risk of Military-Style Injury

WA Police Force recruits undergo vigorous physical training to ensure they are capable of performing the most arduous aspects of policing.

However, of the 1,316 recruits included in the study, 20% had to alter their recruit training due to injury, mirroring injury rates seen among military recruits.

And the injuries could be significant: 87.4% required more than eight days of modified training, and 34% required more than 28 days.

WA Police Force Academy director Superintendent Kate Vivian said the organization recognizes physical training could have on recruits and funded the ECU study to find ways to ensure graduates meet appropriate standards of physical fitness relevant to operational policing, all at the same time. reduce the risk of injury.

“Understanding the risk of injury and ways to prevent injury to our recruits is a top priority for WA Police, and we have a number of effective injury prevention processes in place to help identify and mitigate injuries. injury risks for recruits before and during their physical training program,” she said.

“In addition to these strategies, WA Police continue to support and work with ECU on an initiative to screen pre-inducted police recruits before entering the Academy, providing important insight into the benchmarking and physical profiling.

“This will help the agency develop a screening tool and software platform to identify injury risk for prospective recruits before they begin their Police Academy physical readiness programs and operational deployment.”

Who and what is most sensitive?

The study looked at the prevalence of each type of injury, and the number of interrupted training days it caused, to calculate an overall injury burden score.

Knee injuries have by far the greatest impact on training, ahead of shoulder and lower leg injuries.

Ligament and joint injuries were the greatest burden for injury type, followed closely by muscle and tendon injuries.

Similar to other intensive training programs such as basic military training, men under 30 had a significantly reduced risk of injury.

When training loads were taken into account, males were 40% less likely to be injured and recruits under 30 were 50% less likely to be injured.

Next steps

Dr Murphy said the next step is to carry out body scans of recruits using state-of-the-art technology at ECU’s High Performance Centre, which would allow training programs to be adjusted if necessary. to reduce injuries.

“For example, if muscle mass is not found to be protective and only adds weight and contributes to stress fractures, then we would know that it would be unwise to ask recruits to build muscle; you better focus on nutrition and cardiovascular exercise,” he said.

“But if we find that the muscles really protect against injury, it would be reasonable to try to pump them up.”

‘Injury Profiles of Police Recruits Undergoing Basic Physical Training: A Prospective Cohort Study’ was published in the Vocational Rehabilitation Journal.’

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