University of South Florida

Innovative project to help prevent firefighter injury [video]

University of South Florida researchers use advanced technologies to pinpoint physical job demands 

TAMPA, Fla. (April 24, 2017) — The Firefighter Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) mimics strenuous activities performed in emergency response situations and helps determine whether an applicant is fit enough to become a firefighter. However, there is no previous research analyzing the specific joint movement and muscular activation on an IAFF/IAFC certified CPAT course.

A team of researchers at the University of South Florida School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, led by Charity L. Lane, is kicking off a project using state-of-the-art technology that will provide an in-depth look at muscular activation and skeletal motion in these movements, using telemetric electromyography (EMG) and motion analysis. At each visit, firefighters will wear EMG and motion sensors as they perform each CPAT obstacle and weightlifting exercise. This will enable researchers to compare activation and movement among different weightlifting exercises and firefighter activities.

Motion sensors are connected to St. Petersburg firefighter Kelly Kahle.

“Injury prevention and physical fitness are paramount in the fire service,” Lane said.  “My team and I are dedicated to helping firefighters attain both of these, and I believe that the CPAT results will aid greatly in this goal.”

Since guidance on implementing successful exercise programs for firefighters is minimal, the results of this project are critical to designing exercise programs that match firefighter job requirements, ultimately preventing injury and preserving careers.

The CPAT project is the latest in an ongoing line of research aimed at improving the safety and health of firefighters. The team’s large-scale FEMA grant focused on back injury prevention in firefighters, led by USF Center for Neuromusculoskeletal Research Director John Mayer, PhD, is in progress now. Preliminary results are promising, and final results will be available Fall 2017.

St. Petersburg firefighter Kelly Kahle swings a sledgehammer as part of the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT).

Electromyography (EMG) measures electrical activity of joints and muscles during the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT).

-USF Health-
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and the USF Physicians Group. The University of South Florida, established in 1956 and located in Tampa, is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is ranked in the Top 30 nationally for research expenditures among public universities, according to the National Science Foundation. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Tina Meketa, or (813) 955-2593

Photos and video by Ryan Noone, University Communications and Marketing

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