Austin Kohler, Andrew Moore, Maleah Winkler. Augusta University, Augusta, GA.

BACKGROUND Firefighters (FF) require strength, power, and stamina to safely perform physically challenging occupational tasks. Load carriage in full turnout gear is a primary source of exhaustion during operations; this work requires high anaerobic and aerobic capacities that have been shown to be affected by body composition. Ground contact time (GCT), the time between initial foot contact and toe-off for the same foot, is a measure indicative of running speed and economy with shorter contact times being faster. Information about the relationship between body composition and GCT in tactical athletes may be important for testing, evaluation, and training purposes. Yet, it is unclear if any such relationships exist. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the association between body mass components and GCT in FF wearing full turnout gear during physical agility skills test events. METHODS: 33 male firefighters participated and were measured for lean body mass (LBM), total body weight (TBW), and fat mass (FM) prior to performing a physical agility skills testing battery. All events in the test were performed in full turnout gear that weighs 49 lb. The events were video recorded and included a staircase climb with a 40 lb hose, a 99 lb tire drag, and a 178 lb victim drag; GCT was then measured via Dartfish. For all three events, Pearson’s product-moment correlation coefficients (r) were calculated between GC and each of the following variables: LBM, TBW, and FM. A predetermined alpha level of .05 was used for all correlation analyses. RESULTS: Two correlation coefficients yielded significant relationships. In the stair climb event, there was a moderate positive relationship between GCT and FM (r = 0.407, p = .019). In the tire drag event, there was a moderate negative relationship between GCT and LBM (r = -0.359, p = .040). All other relationships were not significant (p > .05). CONCLUSION: According to the NSCA, LBM and adipose tissue content are primary contributing factors for load carriage performance. This was demonstrated in the stair climb and tire drag; the stair climb demonstrated longer GCT with more FM and the tire drag demonstrated shorter GCT with greater LBM. Therefore, optimal body composition may translate to a key component for optimal occupational performance in firefighters. Further data collection in this ongoing study will provide a better understanding of these issues.

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