Term of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Master of Science, Kinesiology - Exercise Science Concentration

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Health and Kinesiology

Committee Chair

Bridget Melton

Committee Member 1

Barry Munkasy

Committee Member 2

Barry Joyner

Committee Member 3

Mark Abel

Committee Member 3 Email



BACKGROUND: Musculoskeletal injuries are commonly incurred on the fireground among firefighters. Most injuries are attributable to overexertion, fall, jump, slip, and trip mechanisms. These injuries may be caused by many factors, including the independent and collective effects of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and the fatigue induced by performing occupational tasks. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of PPE and fire suppression tasks on static and functional balance among firefighters. METHODS: 32 healthy male career structural firefighters (Age: 31.8±9.5 yr) volunteered for this study. Static and Functional Balance Tests (FBT) were performed in 3 conditions and completed in sequential order. Condition #1 was completed in station uniform attire prior to work activity, condition #2 was completed in PPE prior to a fire suppression drill, and condition #3 was completed in PPE immediately after the fire suppression drill. Static balance outcomes were assessed using a force plate, whereas the modified FBT was performed by ambulating on a plank over and under a set of obstacles which yielded a time and error-based Performance Index (PI). The independent effects of PPE and occupational tasks on balance outcomes were assessed with paired sample t-tests and Wilcoxon Matched Pair Signed Rank test for non-normally distributed data. The level of significance was set at p < 0.01. RESULTS: The post-work PPE condition yielded greater values for mean sway velocity (Non-dominant leg eyes open; z(28)=-3.10, p=0.002, ES: 0.11), anterior-posterior excursion (Dominant leg eyes open: z(28)=-3.83, pCONCLUSION: PPE negatively affected firefighters' functional balance, whereas occupational tasks negatively affected static balance outcomes. These findings highlight the importance for the utilization of countermeasures to combat load carriage and occupational fatigue-induced decrements in neuromuscular function to reduce injury risk among structural firefighters.

Research Data and Supplementary Material