Greenwood police and firefighters benefit from new sports training program

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The pain and inflexibility were getting worse.

From his years of service as a firefighter, Larry Rockwell had an injured right knee that doctors said needed replacement. The battalion chief of the Greenwood Fire Department had leg pain all the time.

“My knees, my legs, there was really no strength. There was constant pain in there,” he said.

But over the past six weeks, Rockwell has found relief with the help of an athletic trainer.

He is one of many firefighters and police officers in Greenwood to benefit from a unique new partnership. The city has agreed to work with Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, formerly known as Methodist Sports Medicine, to provide tactical athlete services for both departments.

Beginning in April, police and firefighters were able to access a wide range of services, from biomechanical analysis to individualized injury prevention programs and orthopedic assessment. Greenwood is one of the first cities in Indiana and the nation to have an integrated athletic trainer providing these services.

By doing so, leaders hope to improve the lives of public safety officials and make communities safer.

“In any field, the more balanced and comfortable you are as a human being, the better you can do your job. It turns out that in police and fire, it has a lot more to do with your physical health than if you were at an office job,” said Maura “Mo” Shea, who leads the tactical athlete program for Forté. .

The partnership was inspired by the work Shea has done in the state over the past two years. After earning a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Xavier University and then a clinical doctorate in athletic training from Indiana State University, she was offered the opportunity to work with the fire department. of Terre Haute as part of the last part of his residency.

The experience was revealing.

“It was literally handing over the keys to me, making it work. I didn’t know anything. I hadn’t been on a trip from kindergarten to the fire station and I didn’t know what that was. So I just jumped right into it,” Shea said. “But it went very well. He had a much higher volume rate than the chef expected.

The Terre Haute program was the first in the nation to provide athletic training services to state public safety departments, and one of only five in the United States. They were the only ones to integrate a trainer within a department.

The success they’ve seen has generated excitement across the country, said Sue Franklin, director of marketing at Forte Sports Medicine.

“The reason integration is important is that it comes from the sports world. In the 1950s we started to put the team (doctors) right with the team. You get better relationships , you get to know the athletes — their tendencies, their health, their traits, versus someone in a clinic just waiting for a patient to show up,” she said. trust that is built.”

Throughout the process, the trainers also get to know the families of the patients, their interests, wounds that they might not have revealed otherwise.

“It becomes a completely different conversation and you will learn a lot more about the pathologies of this person. They might not tell you it hurts to take their toddler unless you start talking about their toddler,” Shea said.

After speaking about integrating wellness programs into fire departments at the Indiana Emergency Responders Conference, a Methodist Sports Medicine team approached her to lead the tactical program for fire departments. athletes.

Tactical athlete services include aspects such as preventative care, health maintenance support, injury triage, immediate care and rehabilitation.

The first thing the team does with each department is scouting. They perform basic concussion screening, providing an evidence-based approach to determining where a person normally is compared to how they may feel after a head injury.

Clinical screenings help measure functional movement in and out of their uniform or equipment. Other tests assess the mobility of joints affected by police or firefighting work.

A follow-up survey gathers more information than is apparent to better target treatment, Shea said.

“Police and firefighters don’t like answering surveys. But when you put it in the context of, here’s how we’re going to build your individualized program, and here’s how we’re going to nationwide improve health care for your siblings in this profession, we get an incredibly high response rate “, she said.

All of the different data points come together with the goals a patient has for their individualized prevention program. Teams or entire units also step in to work on injury prevention.

After providing tactical care to the Carmel Police Department, Bloomington Fire and Police Departments, and the White River Township Fire Department, Greenwood also applied to participate in the program.

“We pride ourselves on investing in and providing the highest quality of life for residents and visitors, and that starts with public safety,” said Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers. “It is the goal, with our Forté partnership, to ensure that our first responders receive quality care so that they can be at their best.”

Providing this kind of care can save the city money in the long run, while also making the city safer, said Darin Hoggatt, Greenwood Fire Chief.

“Having a firefighter off work due to injury costs our department hundreds of dollars a day and negatively impacts that firefighter and their family,” Hoggatt said. “We anticipate this program will help save money and improve team performance and morale, which is important as we work to preserve the lives and property of all who live in and visit the city. of Greenwood.”

Forté provides services to the city at a flat rate, which means police and firefighters can access care as often as needed at no additional cost, Shea said.

To house the program, Greenwood officials renovated the space that was once a meeting hall for Veterans of Foreign Wars. The building is now filled with treatment tables, exercise machines, weights and other equipment. The location provides a place near police and fire headquarters to seek medical attention. Services on the site began in early April.

Shea works full time as a trainer for the White River Township Fire Department and supervises trainers at other locations.

To provide tactical training at Greenwood, Forté hired athletic trainer Dave Walston, who had coached with the Indianapolis Colts for nearly 30 years.

The training of public safety personnel and athletes has many similarities, Walston said.

“They both train very hard to do their job. They just have different skills. However, in this skill set, they both have very similar movement patterns,” Walston said. “I don’t care if you’re squatting, lunging or hurdling, lifting, pulling or pushing, they’re very similar movement patterns.”

But serving tactical athletes has a special meaning.

“It’s a joy to work with these guys. Most important to me, these men and women serve the community of Greenwood. By serving them, I am also serving Greenwood as someone else,” Walston said.

Rockwell has been undergoing treatment with Walston since early April. From the first day, he noticed a significant improvement.

“I come two to three times a week and (Walston) has worked on me. I hardly have the pain I had before,” he said. “My flexibility is much better. I developed flexibility in my quads, where I had none before. It was a slow process, but he worked very diligently to get me where I need to be.

Having access to these kinds of services, which he can take advantage of whenever it fits into his schedule, has been incredibly beneficial.

“It’s huge. There hasn’t been a moment where I haven’t been able to call or text him, and he can reach me that day. I usually plan the week and leave from there,” Rockwell said. “It’s been a good thing.”

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