BACKGROUND: The utilization of personal protective equipment (PPE) is of paramount importance in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of firefighters during emergency responses. Research has highlighted potential drawbacks associated with the use of owned PPE. A significant 12% reduction in anaerobic squat jump assessment was reported when firefighters are equipped with their PPE. This reduction in anaerobic fitness (AF) could have profound implications for their operational readiness. The Physical Ability Test (PAT) assesses firefighters' preparedness by having them wear full PPE, simulating real-world conditions that could increase anaerobic physiological strain. In contrast, using regular exercise clothing for occupational evaluations, while aligning with common tests, might limit specificity. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to analyze the impact of PPE on AF assessment. METHODS: Sixty-two male firefighters underwent occupational-specific AF testing, including handgrip dynamometry (HG), vertical jump (VJ), Margaria-Kalamen (MK), and a 300-yard shuttle run (300YD), both with full PPE (WPPE) and without PPE (NPPE). AF measurements were adjusted for body weight (e.g., NPPE) and occupational weight (e.g., WPPE). Statistical analysis used a repeated measures design in Jamovi version 2.4.8 at a significance level of p < 0.05. RESULTS: In comparison to the NPPE condition, WPPE condition revealed a remarkable 58.7% reduction in relative HG strength, an 11% decline in relative VJ peak power, a substantial 49.3% drop in the mean power during the Margaria-Kalamen test, and an 18.3% increase in the time required for the 300-yard shuttle run (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Findings confirm that the use of PPE significantly diminishes anaerobic performance during specific occupational tests. This underscores the critical importance of recognizing occupational specificity in fitness assessments. Understanding how PPE impacts anaerobic fitness testing parameters has the potential to change not only testing protocols but also training regimens, aimed at enhancing the safety and efficacy of this physically demanding profession. Consequently, physical training programs tailored to augment anaerobic fitness levels should incorporate strategies to alleviate the performance decrements stemming from PPE utilization.

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