Denver Fire Dept.’s rehab program treating firefighters like pro athletes

The department reported worker’s compensation claims from overexertion dropped 42 percent

By FireRescue1 Staff

DENVER — Training like a professional athlete doesn’t mean you have to be one. But for Denver firefighters, it may mean being healthier and safer while on the job. 

The rehab program was launched two years ago and pulls from professional sports training routines to prevent injuries and help injured firefighters. It aims to decrease on-duty injuries and increase physical health.

The department reported worker’s compensation claims from overexertion dropped 42 percent, reported the Denver Post

“We’re being really aggressive,” Lt. Shawn Brooks, the department’s health and wellness coordinator, said. “What I want to do is treat all of our firefighters like professional athletes. How do pro athletes get back in the game so fast after injury? They do therapy every day.”

The program is run by Lt. Brooks and two physical therapists. Department firefighters often consult with physical therapists after a shift or ask for a specific exercise to help with an injury. 

Firefighters are screened in seven functional moving tests, which were originally developed for the NFL and used in many other sports. The tests include lunges, squats, steps and reaches to measure coordination, flexibility and motor control. Lt. Brooks said the tests are adapted to cater to firefighters, who often times strain their backs while carrying heavy equipment or pulling water-filled hoses. 

“Everything we do is awkward,” Lt. Brooks said. “It’s awkward to move a body, move a ladder, move a hose. We have to do those awkward things correctly."

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