Improving Return-to-Work Decision Making After Firefighter Orthopedic Injury


By O2X Injury Prevention Specialist Dave Sherman

Orthopedic injuries can be a common occurrence for firefighters, as the physically demanding nature of their job can put a lot of strain on the body. These injuries can range from sprains and strains to more serious conditions like burns, broken bones, and torn ligaments. Furthermore, reinjury rates are reported between seven and 34%, suggesting that current processes for return to work are suboptimal. The consensus in the field is that determination of return-to-work readiness should incorporate physical assessments of muscular strength and aerobic fitness, as well as social support, psychological factors, and stress. If you’ve ever experienced injury, you understand the physical limitations and mental impact the pain and limitations can have. If not managed appropriately, even nagging, non-serious aches and pains can cascade into fear of movement, prolonged disability, and loss of work.

Effective return-to-work decision making can help optimize health and wellness, restore job performance, and reduce reinjury. Unfortunately, nearly half of firefighters report knowing a colleague who felt they had returned to work too soon after injury—suggesting that the return-to-work process after an orthopedic injury is often suboptimal…

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