Back strength and flexibility of EMS providers in practicing prehospital providers

J Occup Rehabil. 2005 Jun;15(2):105-11. doi: 10.1007/s10926-005-1213-0.


In the execution of prehospital care duties, an EMS provider may be required to carry equipment and patients over long distances or over multiple flights of stairs at any time of the day. At a minimum, a prehospital provider must have sufficient lower back strength and hamstring flexibility to prevent musculoskeletal injury while lifting. This study administered fitness assessments related to the occupational activities of the prehospital provider with the purpose of describing the incidence of occupational back injury and percentage of providers with known risk factors for back injury. Ninety subjects were tested during a regional EMS conference. Men were significantly taller and heavier than women and had significantly less hamstring flexibility. Body Mass Index was 30.7 +/- 7.2 in men and 28 +/- 5.7 in women. However, no significant differences were noted in an extension test of back strength. When surveyed, 47.8% of subjects reported a back injury in the previous 6 months but only 39.1% of these injuries were sustained while performing EMS duties. While only 13% of these injuries resulted in missed work, 52.2% reported their injury interfered with their daily activities. In spite of the physical nature of the profession, EMS providers in our sample were significantly overweight according to their Body Mass Index and may lack sufficient back strength and flexibilityfor safe execution of their duties. This group of professionals may be at risk for occupational injury and should be targeted for interventions to improve strength and flexibility.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Injuries / epidemiology
  • Back Injuries / etiology*
  • Back Injuries / physiopathology
  • Emergency Medical Technicians*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lifting / adverse effects*
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pliability*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology