Fit Responder Works to Prevent Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries like muscle strains, sprains, or contusions can be a recurring problem for firefighters, EMTs, and other members whose line of work involves a fair amount of physical activity. Finding time throughout the day to work on preventative measures might be difficult, but it can make a world of difference.

Recently, Mountain View Fire Protection District participated in the Fit Responder Injury Free System, a training program that focuses on injury prevention techniques, patient and equipment handling, and tailoring specific workouts to individuals.

This multi-day course, available to all members, starts by focusing on four basic stretches that help get everyone warmed up: the calf and ankle glide, hamstring wave, the “Captain Morgan,” and thoracic rotation. These four basic stretches get your whole body warm in just a few minutes, and are followed by extensive lifting and training demonstrations.

“The material that was covered was the best thing about the course,” said Dustin Sorensen, Lieutenant at Mountain View Fire.

The bottom line is, if you are not already doing stretches before starting your shift, this course can provide you with the expertise and incentive to really get your body moving before jumping right into a call or the line of duty.

Repeating each one of these 10 times on each side should only take you a few minutes when done correctly. On top of that, the material learned in this course is then rolled out to your entire staff.

“The morning stretches were the first thing [we] implemented right away,” Sorensen said.

One of the greatest techniques from the Fit Responder course had to do with pain management and how to combat it with a simple $15 foam roller from Amazon and a tennis ball. Using the roller, you can work your muscles to become more flexible and reduce back pain and inflamed trigger points around the body. With a consistent regimen, you will see a major difference in chronic pain in just weeks. After you use a foam roller the tennis ball comes in. Using a tennis ball, you can easily target individual trigger points that your foam roller may not be able to access.

“I use several of the rolling, stretching, and ball techniques every day. Not just on duty,” said Ron Waterman, Firefighter and Paramedic at Mountain View Fire.

Fit Responder is not just about improving your flexibility and stretching. As a first responder, you can find yourself in some sticky situations, such as performing an extraction or rescue that jeopardizes your physical safety.

This course details how to address these tight rescues with just a few simple tools, good posture, and some good communication, without putting yourself at unnecessary risk. Simple adjustments like correct grip, keeping your back straight, and using a flexible stretcher that gives you hand holds at a better height can help you improve and prevent injuries.

Throughout the course, participants came away with plenty of material and information that they hadn’t encountered or applied before. If it wasn’t the pain management techniques that made a lasting impact, it was the fitness training or the patient handling. No matter what phase of fitness or how long you have been a first responder, this Fit Responder Course has something for everyone.

“It was well worth the time spent and beneficial to me,” Waterman noted. “I took away many great learning points and I have been teaching and training people for almost 20 years.”

If you would like more information about Fit Responder and are interested in hosting a course at your district, reach out to Adam Johnsen at

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