Law enforcement is steeped in tradition as are all the public safety professions. Traditions help an officer identify with their profession and to create the persona and professionalism expected. But not all traditions are good, some are downright counterproductive and some just make no sense. Your day might look something like this, drive to the station where you get changed while having a cup of coffee and munching on a bagel. Sit through roll call with your second cup of coffee and head out for eight hours of patrol where anything can happen and often does.
If this sounds anything like your routine or even close we need to take a serious look at this tradition and routine that you are following. Let’s take an alternate look at what should be done prior to a shift.
On the way into the station you finish your meal replacement shake and your first bottle of water for the day. You get into the station and join your fellow officers for 5 minutes of self myofascial release on the foam roller to loosen the connective tissue in your hips and legs. From there your shift fitness leader takes everyone through 5 minutes of functional stretching. You have your second bottle of water while strapping on your gear and head to roll call ready to start your shift hydrated, alert, loose and ready for action.
At this point many officers are scoffing at this second tradition ready to flip to the next story here on officer.com BUT wait! This reality is not so far from reality as you may think. Athletes, tactical teams, physical therapy patients and normal folks all use foam rollers and functional stretches prior to exercise and to lessen the chances for injury and pain. Personally I have worked with countless athletes, pain patients and public safety professionals out of work from injury. These injuries have mostly occurred not from physical altercations but from repetitive motions and poor posture. Sitting for hours in a patrol car with your gear forcing you into poor posture and then having to come out of the car at a full run in the dark over uneven ground is a recipe for injury.
If an athlete takes the time pre-event to do everything possible to improve performance while reducing the chance for injury it only makes sense for you, the tactical athlete where fitness is a job requirement, to do the same. It only takes 8-10 minutes pre-shift or before leaving your home to prep your body for action through a series of stretches to warm up prior to work as we know this will reduce injury and increase alertness, something quite necessary in law enforcement. With 11% of injuries coming from walking alone we as a profession must step back and acknowledge that we have to change some of our behaviors to survive our careers. Pain us not fun, ask any officer with lower back pain or knee pain that prohibits them from doing their job or makes it too painful to sit for long periods. Sadly most officers and civilians for that matter take no interest in their bodies until the damage has been done and by then it is too late.
Your chief and the risk managers in your department/municipality/county etc. worry a lot on how to reduce injury while improving wellness. In my humble opinion by employing the two simple techniques I have shared with you here pre-shift solves a lot of the issues with law enforcement, it reduces injury while increasing flexibility. These two things alone will increase alertness and physical ability while improving wellness on a lot of fronts. What about the return on investment of launching this program? Limitless! Reduced injury, reduced sickness from improved immune function, better nutrition and hydration, improved morale and improved shift cohesiveness. All this from 10 minutes a day of mandatory self care through self myofascial release and functional stretching. With the average cost of a knee injury topping $15K plus the strain on the rest of the crews to make up for being down an officer and it just makes sense to start some new traditions.