Measurement of Functional Capacity Requirements to Aid in Development of an Occupation-Specific Rehabilitation Training Program to Help Firefighters With Cardiac Disease Safely Return to Work

Published:January 27, 2009DOI:
      We designed a study to measure the functional capacity requirements of firefighters to aid in the development of an occupation-specific training program in cardiac rehabilitation; 23 healthy male firefighters with no history of heart disease completed a fire and rescue obstacle course that simulated 7 common firefighting tasks. They wore complete personal protective equipment and portable metabolic instruments that included a data collection mask. We monitored each subject's oxygen consumption (VO2) and working heart rate, then calculated age-predicted maximum heart rates (220 − age) and training target heart rates (85% of age-predicted maximum heart rate). During performance of the obstacle course, the subjects' mean working heart rates and peak heart rates were higher than the calculated training target heart rates (t22 = 5.69 [working vs target, p <0.001] and t22 = 15.14 [peak vs target, p <0.001]). These findings, with mean results for peak VO2 (3,447 ml/min) and metabolic equivalents (11.9 METs), show that our subjects' functional capacity greatly exceeded that typically attained by patients in traditional cardiac rehabilitation programs (5 to 8 METs). In conclusion, our results indicate the need for intense, occupation-specific cardiac rehabilitation training that will help firefighters safely return to work after a cardiac event.
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