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James R. Bernedo, Matthew Dohmeier, Eva Janofsky, Mike Iosia. Lee University, Cleveland, TN.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to measure the impact of personal protective ensembles (PPE) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) on firefighters' upper body dynamic balance and motor control using the Y-Balance Test (YBT). METHODS: Dynamic balance was measured using the upper-body Y-balance test. Fourteen firefighters (13 M, 1 F) were recruited for the study from the local municipal fire department. Upper body composite reach scores were measured on both sides on three separate occasions, wearing workout gear (PT), PPE, and PPE and SCBA. SPSS was used to identify statistical differences using paired sample t-tests. RESULTS: There was a statistically significant decrease (p<0.001) on both right and left upper body composite scores respectively, between PT and SCBA (94.58 ± 9.30, 82.42 ± 10.01, p=0.001, mean difference= 12.16%), as well as PPE and SCBA (92.9 1± 9.13, 82.42 ± 10.01, p= 0.001, mean difference= 10.49%). On the left PT and SCBA (95.96 ± 8.81, 84.68±9.37, p= 0.001, mean difference= 11.28%), as well as between PPE and SCBA (94.54 ± 9.92, 84.68 ± 9.37, p= 0.001, mean difference= 9.86%). There were no statistical differences on either side between PT and PPE. CONCLUSION: Data from the study indicates that the SCBA had the greatest impact on upper body Y-Balance scores. The average decrease in statistically significant data on right side was 12.16% (PT vs SCBA) and 10.49% (PPE vs PPE + SCBA) and on the left 11.28% (PT vs SCBA) and 9.86% (PPE vs PPE + SCBA). Decreases in dynamic balance in the upper body can be attributed to the increase in weight from PT (93.3 kg ± 21.647), PPE (100.76 kg ± 14.152), to PPE+SCBA (112.854 kg ± 12.4799) due to the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that firefighters wear. Firefighter command structures may wish to take into consideration the impact of upper body reach balance and stability when training with the SCBA. Further research is needed to identify cut points in composite scores which may be associated with increased risk of injury.

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