Cardiovascular risk screening of volunteer firefighters

Background: The work demands involved in firefighting place significant stress on the cardiovascular system. This study investigated the application of the AHA/ACSM Health/Fitness Facility Preparticipation Screening Questionnaire in volunteer Country Fire Brigade (CFA) firefighters. Methods: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors were measured in 3777 CFA firefighters and entered into a modified version of the American Heart Association (AHA)/ACSM Health/Fitness Facility Preparticipation Screening Questionnaire to stratify individuals as low, moderate or high risk. Results: Just over half (50.8%) of female and more than two thirds (68.2%) of male CFA firefighters were classified as moderate risk. The questionnaire further stratified 2.6% of female and 5.2% of male CFA firefighters as high risk while the remaining 46.6% and 26.6% of female and male firefighters, respectively, were classified as low risk. Conclusion: The majority of firefighters screened were at moderate risk and therefore, would be advised by AHA/ACSM guidelines to undertake and pass a detailed medical examination and a medically supervised exercise test prior to initiating vigorous intensity physical activity. However, considering the financial and practical implications (e.g., reduced emergency response capacity) the introduction of mandatory screening may cause, fire agencies should focus screening for high risk personnel only, while promoting agency wide CVD health education.

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