Sprains, strains led firefighter injuries in 2012
According to the National Fire Protection Association, American firefighters suffered 34,065 injuries on the job in 2012. Nearly 30 percent of these injuries were moderate or severe, leading to time lost from work and, in some cases, to permanent disability. The most common firefighter injuries in recent years have been strains and sprains, which cause more than 800 Illinois firefighters each year to seek medical treatment or take time off duty.
Firefighting brings a high risk of sprains and strains
Firefighting is a vigorous and dangerous occupation. Firefighters face a wide range of hazards in the line of duty, from heat and smoke to treacherous terrain and obstacles. They must move quickly, displace heavy objects and maneuver in unexpected ways. They must also handle bulky firefighting equipment in constantly changing conditions. All of these activities add up to a high risk of sprains and strains on the job, affecting thousands of firefighters across the nation every year.
Changing statistics since the 1980s
Sprains and strains have not always been the most common firefighting injuries. When the NFPA began its current system of keeping records in 1981, wounds and cuts (with 20,000 annual occurrences) and smoke inhalation or respiratory distress (with 17,800 annual occurrences) were the most frequent injuries. By the 1990s, sprains and strains had overtaken both of these categories. This change can be attributed to a number of factors:
- Better protective equipment to prevent smoke inhalation and respiratory difficulties among firefighters
- A gradual increase in the body weight of victims and the size of homes, requiring more physical effort in many search and rescue cases
- Improved systems for reporting and treating injuries among firefighters, including injuries not directly related to smoke or fire exposure
All of these factors make sprains and strains add up to an increasingly large percentage of fireground injuries.
Sprains and strains can cause long-term problems
Although a sprain may not be as dramatic as a burn or a wound, it can cause long-term problems for a firefighter. Many firefighting professionals apply for workers’ compensation each year because these soft tissue injuries make it difficult or impossible to carry on with work as usual. When a firefighter suffers a sprain, it is crucial to seek medical care and keep detailed records of everything that happened during and after the injury. This evidence may be needed for proper compensation later on.
Sprains and strains can be a serious health problem for firefighters. To find out more about how these injuries may affect you, speak with a workers’ compensation attorney today.