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Open Access Research

Accuracy of peak VO2 assessments in career firefighters

Dana C Drew-Nord1*, Jonathan Myers2, Stephen R Nord3, Roberta K Oka4, OiSaeng Hong1 and Erika S Froelicher5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health Systems, School of Nursing, University of California, 2 Koret Way, San Francisco, California 94143, USA

2 School of Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto VA Health Care System, 3801 Miranda Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94304-1290, USA

3 Premier COMP Medical Group, Inc. 5635 W. Las Positas Blvd., Suite 401, Pleasanton, CA 94588, USA

4 Palo Alto VA Health Care System, 3801Miranda Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94304-1290, USA

5 Department of Physiological Nursing, School of Nursing, University of California, 2 Koret Way, San Francisco, California 94143, USA

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2011, 6:25  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-6-25

Published: 25 September 2011

Abstract

Background

Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of on-duty death in United States firefighters. Accurately assessing cardiopulmonary capacity is critical to preventing, or reducing, cardiovascular events in this population.

Methods

A total of 83 male firefighters performed Wellness-Fitness Initiative (WFI) maximal exercise treadmill tests and direct peak VO2 assessments to volitional fatigue. Of the 83, 63 completed WFI sub-maximal exercise treadmill tests for comparison to directly measured peak VO2 and historical estimations.

Results

Maximal heart rates were overestimated by the traditional 220-age equation by about 5 beats per minute (p < .001). Peak VO2 was overestimated by the WFI maximal exercise treadmill and the historical WFI sub-maximal estimation by ~ 1MET and ~ 2 METs, respectively (p < 0.001). The revised 2008 WFI sub-maximal treadmill estimation was found to accurately estimate peak VO2 when compared to directly measured peak VO2.

Conclusion

Accurate assessment of cardiopulmonary capacity is critical in determining appropriate duty assignments, and identification of potential cardiovascular problems, for firefighters. Estimation of cardiopulmonary fitness improves using the revised 2008 WFI sub-maximal equation.