Investing in third-generation body armor improves long-term health outcomes

Two male police officers wearing third generation bulletproof vests

Investing in a third generation bulletproof vest is a no-brainer. At least that’s what one physical therapist at the Benn Foundation thinks.

Investing now will save you money in the long run, improve the health of your members, and help executives stay on the job and stay active, rather than missing work due to health issues like low back pain (LBP). Patrick Hoyte, a physical therapist at The Academy, agrees. Ben Fund.

The report highlighted by Hoyte presents research findings (Promoting back pain prevention in police officers: a systematic review).) LBP affects approximately 38 percent of the general population, but within the police force this figure rises to 67.7 percent. Figures like these have a dramatic economic impact on health services, and it is clear that services supporting police officers have a much greater impact.

We look at the pressures placed on a police officer by the continued wearing of body armor, how this affects his workplace and how it impacts day-to-day police work. We sat down with Mr. Hoyte to understand more.

Mr. Hoyt has been with the Benn Foundation since 2011. Before qualifying as a physiotherapist, he served as a paramedic in the Parachute Regiment from 1984 to 2006 in conflicts around the world.

Hoyt’s experience in the military gives him unique insight into the various consequences of carrying weight over long periods of time.

“Part of our military training was learning how to carry heavy loads. Unlike the police, we didn’t wear body armor every day, but when we carried our kit it was pretty heavy. So I was trained on how to carry that kind of weight,” he said.

“Police body armor is much lighter, but wearing it every day for long periods of time has a big impact. It’s no wonder then that my office is full of police officers with back problems.

“This is just an anecdote, but very few of my military colleagues actually have back pain problems, and even fewer require intervention such as surgery. But by comparison, I There are so many police officers who have problems that require their attention, or worse, surgical intervention.”

The impact is significant, with a significant number of police officers requiring medical and musculoskeletal (MSK) management or rehabilitation. Previous research highlighted by Hoyte (Prevention and Rehabilitation: Effects of Bulletproof Vests on Mobility and Postural Control in Police Officers) found that wearing a body armor significantly increases the amount of time an individual loses balance during required duties. There was found. Participants actively compensate for lateral perturbations. This impaired ability to respond to postural issues increases the risk of slips, trips, and falls, a leading cause of injury. Hoyte sees two or three officers come in every day with issues that need treatment. The most desirable outcome is four weeks off duty, but it is possible to be off duty for up to a year.

At a time when police numbers, especially experienced police officers, are at historic lows. Losing two or three officers in one day is not something to be taken lightly. And these problems most affect experienced police officers, who have been on the job longer and can withstand the weight of their body armor for longer.

Mr Hoyte has been responsible for police officers in the West Midlands, Cheshire, Cumbria, GMP, Lancashire and Merseyside Police, so how this will significantly increase the number of officers in all 43 forces in England and Wales. It’s not difficult to see.

The implications of this are clear. We have unnecessarily lost a large number of police officers across England and Wales over an extended period of time due to MSK issues and back problems. Removing such figures from duty is a disservice to everyone, and serious consideration should be given to what can be done to stop this.

Hoyte sees more police officers with back problems than any other police officer. He believes there may be a correlation between police officers wearing bulletproof vests and the number of back problems he and other employees at the Benn Foundation have. Understanding that bulletproof vests are the cause of many physical illnesses must be a top priority.

Police officers will be issued with a bulletproof vest when they start their job, and that kit will be worn by them for the rest of their lives unless they seek help from occupational health and have a referral. Bulletproof vests are not required to be reattached at any point. An extensive study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examining bulletproof vests for police officers and military personnel included police officers’ weight tests, postural sway tests, vertical jump tests, agility tests, vehicle escape and sprint tests. , Victim Recovery Test, Functional Movement Test, and Comfort Test found that the main factor contributing to negative test results was the fit of the bulletproof vest.

This is what Mr. Hoyte fails to understand. He commented: Even if you lose or gain a lot of weight, you’ll still have the same kit you had when you first put it on. This is meaningless and he must be one of the root causes affecting performance and physical health. ”

But it goes much further than this. Body armor was originally intended as stab protection, but as the years have gone on, it has become increasingly popular with body-worn video cameras, smartphones, flashlights, pens, notebooks, PAVA spray, batons, personal radios, etc. More and more kits are being added and attached to body armor. . Adding this much weight to a bulletproof vest is bound to have consequences.

Because the weight rests on the shoulders, it pulls the shoulders downward, compressing the spine, affecting the vertebrae, and over time the discs can degenerate and cause serious problems such as sciatica, osteoarthritis, and decreased mobility. cause health problems.

Hoyte said, “Lifting this much weight every day for weeks, months, even years takes a toll on an officer’s mobility and ability to perform the very physical demands of modern law enforcement.” “It will have an impact,” he said. And police officers who have to sit for long periods in car seats designed for normal civilian use suffer just like other police officers. ”

For these reasons, like Mr. Hoyte, we are calling on chief constables to invest in third-generation body armor. Lighter, more flexible and gender-specific, this new body armor represents a significant advance in improving long-term health outcomes for officers over existing kit.

“It seems to me that every chief has an obligation to invest as soon as possible,” he added. “The impact on police officers will be felt immediately, and over time the number of forces relying on medical professionals like myself will decrease, meaning more officers will be on duty and all This will result in better use of resources, budget, and time.”

We previously highlighted the advances this new body armor brings.

This is the first body armor to recognize gender-specific requirements. Both suppliers offer different designs for each gender, increasing overall protection in each area.

Progress also includes what are considered fundamental improvements, such as:

  • Machine washable
  • Made with durable Endurance fabric
  • High wear resistance
  • High tear strength
  • Comfortable stretch material
  • Cooling ventilation system to help regulate temperature

However, these, coupled with the fact that both suppliers offer lightweight designs in all versions, offer significant long-term benefits for officer health.

We have argued before that police chiefs are legally obliged to provide their officers with the best equipment available, as required by health and safety legislation.

This argument is now supported by medical experts who work very closely with police and observe the effects of their long-term work on a daily basis, and can see no significant common cause other than the weight of the bulletproof vests.

Now that lighter, more flexible body armor is available, offers superior protection, and is gender-specific for the first time, we are confident that the long-term rewards for all chiefs will be greater than today’s It is better to invest now, knowing that it will outweigh your financial outlay.

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