BACKGROUND: Tactical populations, such as military, firefighter and law enforcement populations, are known to suffer a relatively high number of musculoskeletal injuries, with the lower extremity of notable concern. The aim of this retrospective cohort study was to determine the profile of lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries within a state police agency.
METHODS: Injury data were collected by an Australian state police force over a 7-year period (2009-2016) and records not meeting the definition for lower extremity musculoskeletal injury were excluded. Statistical analyses were descriptive, with frequencies, means and standard deviations calculated where applicable. Chi-square analysis was performed to compare injury profiles by gender. Ethics approval was granted by Bond University Human Research Ethics Committee (Research Protocol 15360).
RESULTS: Of the initial 65,579 incident records, 12,452 (19%) related to lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries. The knee was the most commonly injured site (31.4%) with sprains/strains (42.3%) the most common nature of injury and arresting offenders (24.2%) the most common activity at time of injury. Slips/trips/falls (37.8%) was found to be the most common cause of injury. Variations were found between genders, most notably within the injury activity (p < .001). 27.1% of male officers were injured when arresting offenders compared to 16.5% for female officers. Walking/running contributed to 17.9% of female officer incidents compared to 9.3% for male officers. The mean number of hours worked prior to injury occurrence was 6.00 ± 3.56 h with significantly more injuries occurring in the middle third of the shift (4.34-8.67 h, p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: While the proportion of injuries that affected the lower extremity was lower for police, the leading sites of injuries (knees and ankles) were similar to those of military and fire and rescue populations. Variations between genders suggest there may need to be differences in return-to-work rehabilitation.