The Sports Science of Firefighting: A 5 Part Series.
PART 1. What a total spectacle last Sunday. Butler and Brady and gang. I was rooting for the Hawks — as a Raven’s fan born and bred, I’m anti-Patriots rather than pro-anyone else in that Superbowl matchup. So I can recount more Wilson / Mathews / Lynch plays despite the torturous ending.
My pain aside, it got me to thinking about the FOOTBALL-FIREGROUND analogy. It's an easy jump to make. Sure, one is a game and the other saves life, limb and property. In one the goal is to put up points and the other to put out fire and find humans.
But the sports science and teamwork of football is as good an analogy as any to the physiology and unit-based maneuvers on the fireground. Days later after the Super Bowl, that deep sports obsession I have lingers in my bones -- the high speed tackles, big acceleration through the pack, ball tucked tight under the arm, team trust, and earth shattering, history-making gambles like Patrick Kearse bobbling the ball in slow motion a few feet from the goal line.
Sport-specific trainers start with key maneuver areas -- cutting, passing, tackling, blocking, catching. They develop ground rules and circuits that correlate directly to those skills. Governing principles include change of direction, acceleration, and technical ball handling, as examples. In the same way, we start with 8 fireground manuever areas that encompass most of what we do in this profession -- including hose handling, ventilation, search and rescue. When we isolate atypical weight-loaded muscles strained in these maneuvers, we reveal the governing principles of firefighting: Low-Motion, Weight-Load, O2 Burst, and Unit-Based Fitness.
When I break down the physiology, football and firefighting have common ground rules: bursting, staying low, balancing under load and in motion, and operating as a unit are fundamentals in both professions. They are governing principles for every position on the field, and every slot on the hose line and search team. Granted the key maneuvers are different. But in both cases success relies in outlasting the opponent -- the Hawks or the fire -- and the ground rules are the same.
ZERO TO SIXTY bursts of a receiver or ladder climb require that the heart is strong and Type II fast twitch muscle fibers trained.
LOW-MOTION MANEUVERS — the snap or the search — demand glut stability and powerful core.
BALANCE UNDER LOAD AND IN MOTION is the mantra for success for the catch of the century or the advancement of a hose line.
And finally, THE UNIT. Fitness training should be oriented around the team. We fight fires as a team, play superbowls as a team, why wouldn’t we fitness train as a team? This doesn’t mean every workout must be unit PT. But professional circuits that we're using to close the gap between fitness and the fireground should be facilitated team events, and made mandatory as needed.
After all, MVPs only surface on the shoulders of giants.