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  • Low back pain studies

    Trying to find find some LE related medical studies that correlate low back and/or hip pain to carrying duty gear on on a belt and the hips. I know it certainly contributes, but someone actually had to gall to say they hadn't seen any studies officially showing that.

    Full disclosure, this is intended to hopefully help facilitate the utilization of external vests by my department and getting a good portion of gear off the belt.

  • #2
    I know it certainly contributes, but someone actually had to gall to say they hadn't seen any studies officially showing that.
    We are unlikely to find studies that say wearing a duty belt causes back pain. One of the largest studies on police back pain was published as "Back Pain in a Large Canadian Police Force" which notes "The a priori assumption that driving or wearing a duty belt contributed to the problem was shared by most police officers surveyed." The study concluded that as a group, police officers experienced back pain at a rate comparable to the general population.

    There are quite a few studies that address other aspects of police work and their capacity to cause back pain. I pulled these from the Pub Med database. If you want full text, give the list to a reference librarian.

    A couple of these studies, #4 and #7, are particularly interesting. They associate back pain with being overweight and out-of-shape.


    1: Filtness AJ, Mitsopoulos-Rubens E, Rudin-Brown CM. Police officer in-vehicle
    discomfort: appointments carriage method and vehicle seat features. Appl Ergon.
    2014 Jul;45(4):1247-56. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2014.03.002. Epub 2014 Mar 27.
    PubMed PMID: 24681072.


    2: Gruevski KM, McKinnon CD, Dickerson CR, Callaghan JP. The impact of mobile
    data terminal use on posture and low-back discomfort when combined with simulated
    prolonged driving in police cruisers. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2013;19(3):415-22.
    PubMed PMID: 24034884.


    3: Holmes MW, McKinnon CD, Dickerson CR, Callaghan JP. The effects of police duty
    belt and seat design changes on lumbar spine posture, driver contact pressure and
    discomfort. Ergonomics. 2013;56(1):126-36. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2012.739206.
    Epub 2012 Nov 12. PubMed PMID: 23140370.


    4: Heneweer H, Picavet HS, Staes F, Kiers H, Vanhees L. Physical fitness, rather
    than self-reported physical activities, is more strongly associated with low back
    pain: evidence from a working population. Eur Spine J. 2012 Jul;21(7):1265-72.
    doi: 10.1007/s00586-011-2097-7. Epub 2011 Dec 2. PubMed PMID: 22134487; PubMed
    Central PMCID: PMC3389121.


    5: Beyaz EA, Ketenci A. [Low back pain in policemen]. Agri. 2010 Jan;22(1):1-6.
    Turkish. PubMed PMID: 20209408.


    6: Donnelly CJ, Callaghan JP, Durkin JL. The effect of an active lumbar system on
    the seating comfort of officers in police fleet vehicles. Int J Occup Saf Ergon.
    2009;15(3):295-307. PubMed PMID: 19744371.


    7: Nabeel I, Baker BA, McGrail MP Jr, Flottemesch TJ. Correlation between
    physical activity, fitness, and musculoskeletal injuries in police officers. Minn
    Med. 2007 Sep;90(9):40-3. PubMed PMID: 17966263.


    8: Weil Y, Weil D, Donchin M, Mann G, Hasharoni A. Correlation between
    pre-employment screening X-ray finding of spondylolysis and sickness absenteeism
    due to low back pain among policemen of the Israeli police force. Spine (Phila Pa
    1976). 2004 Oct 1;29(19):2168-72. PubMed PMID: 15454711.


    9: Gyi DE, Porter JM. Musculoskeletal problems and driving in police officers.
    Occup Med (Lond). 1998 Apr;48(3):153-60. PubMed PMID: 9659724.


    10: Brown JJ, Wells GA, Trottier AJ, Bonneau J, Ferris B. Back pain in a large
    Canadian police force. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1998 Apr 1;23(7):821-7. PubMed
    PMID: 9563114.


    11: Burton AK, Tillotson KM, Symonds TL, Burke C, Mathewson T. Occupational risk
    factors for the first-onset and subsequent course of low back trouble. A study of
    serving police officers. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1996 Nov 15;21(22):2612-20.
    PubMed PMID: 8961449.


    12: Kuorinka I, Côté MM, Baril R, Geoffrion R, Giguère D, Dalzell MA, Larue C.
    Participation in workplace design with reference to low back pain: a case for the
    improvement of the police patrol car. Ergonomics. 1994 Jul;37(7):1131-6. PubMed
    PMID: 8050401.

    Comment


    • #3
      California has studied it to death and as a result, enacted the following legislation. Perhaps you can push for similar legislation in your state.

      Labor Code Section 3213.2, Presumption for Lower Back Impairment

      In the case of a member of a police department of a city, county, or city and county, or a member of the sheriff’s office of a county, or a peace officer employed by the Department of the California Highway Patrol, or a peace officer employed by the University of California, who has been employed for at least five years as a peace officer on a regular, full-time salary and has been required to wear a duty belt as a condition of employment, the term “injury,” as used in this division, includes lower back impairments. The compensation that is awarded for lower back impairments shall include full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits as provided by the provisions of this division.

      (b) The lower back impairment so developing or manifesting itself in the peace officer shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with it. This presumption shall be extended to a person following termination of service for a period of three calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance, commencing with the last date actually worked in the specified capacity.

      (c) For purposes of this section, “duty belt” means a belt used for the purpose of holding a gun, handcuffs, baton, and other items related to law enforcement.
      Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks, I certainly appreciate your responses. Will be following up on the code section and those studies. Surprising though that a study found LEO get back pain at a comparable rate of that of the general public.

        Comment


        • #5
          One of our guys got t boned in an on duty accident fracturing his pelvis and doing damausge to his back and lower body. He got a note for the suspenders and vest from his Doctor. They tried to tell him no way, the city lawyer sided with him. Now anyone with a note can wera one. Just a thought.

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't have any studies for you, but I wil say I'm better off getting the weight off the belt. I switched back to a full duty belt for about a year. The belt had my gun, two mags, peper spray, taser, radio, 2 sets of cuffs and the audio recorder for my in car camera. Generally I felt fine, but if I spent a few hours standing, like directing traffic, I'd start feeling over extended and I'd get pain. I went back to wearing an exterior weight bearing vest and feel a lot better. The only things on my belt now are my gun, mags, pepper spray and radio. Everything else is on my vest.
            It may not look as professional, but my lower back feels a lot better.

            Comment


            • #7
              I am only on foot posts for traffic/crowd control details once in a while, and I am still young so I don't notice too much of an issue with lower back pain any more than I would have standing there for hours straight without gear. What I did notice though is that when doing patrols in the car, all the gear on your belt really messes with your posture. I tried to get as much off my back as I could so that I now only have a spare cuff case back there. Still, the firearm and radio on your sides really prevent your lower back from resting all the way against the seat. I'm not a huge guy and we drive crown vice here, so I could only imagine what it would be like for a bigger guy in a smaller car.

              I never really had a problem with it, but I could definitely see how over time sitting in a car seat like that with your hip/lower back pushed forward in the seat and not being supported could cause lower back problems. Combine that with the fact that with the vest on it seems a lot more comfortable sometimes to slouch back in the seat, now you are really putting your lower back in a weird angle.

              I would imagine that ANY job that requires you to sit in a car for 8 hours would NOT be good with lower back problems. I used to get lower back pain a lot, pretty bad too but I almost eliminated it completely by consistently stretching my hamstrings and really working on posture supporting workouts like deadlifts. Sitting for hours each day will shorten the hamstring muscles which could lead to an anterior pelvic tilt (which then leads to low back problems). The gear, I am sure, just makes it even worse.

              I doubt there are any studies looking into something as specific as "sitting in a car for 8 hours with gear placed on your sides/back" though, but I would imagine that sitting in the car, with or without the gear, causes as many if not more lower back issues than anything else. Getting the gear off the belt would at least allow officers to sit properly in the seat.
              Last edited by Kris396; 01-20-2015, 12:02 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I also have back pain and have seen several doctors for it. The last Doctor said it was not the weight but the uneven distribution of the weight that was the real killer. But I don't see any way to fix that other than suspenders but he said they could also cause back issues due to compression.

                Comment


                • #9
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD95uEAfT1E

                  Friend just sent me this link and I thought it could be useful to you SPQR

                  5.11 came out with the Zero G plate which is designed to distribute the gear more evenly. They mention in the ad that they did some research on back/knee/ankle pain from the uneven distribution of weight on the duty belt. May not hurt to ask them if they have any legit peer reviewed sources or maybe some kind of study/survey they did themselves that you could use. They might have just been BSing to sell a product, but maybe they actually used some good sources to come to these conclusions.

                  Comment


                  • #10
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