Research study helping Eau Claire police address issues with back pain

Published: Nov. 17, 2017 at 7:23 PM CST
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The Eau Claire Police Department is finding tools of the trade are causing some long-term health concerns for officers.

In partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System and UW-Eau Claire, a research team has been assembled to determine if there's a safer way for officers to carry their equipment.

Fire arms, bullets, handcuffs, and pepper spray are just a few of the many items Eau Claire Police must carry on a daily basis, but the way officers carry these items may be exposing them to health issues. "We have a number of officers that do have issues with back pain and hip pain," said Officer Kyle Roder of the Eau Claire Police Department.

The department says the physical pain some Officers experience is due to carrying heavy equipment on their belts and sitting in squad cars for extended periods of time.

"Every day, our patrol officers are in a squad car for more than 10 hours a day. That's their office, they sit in there, they write reports in there, they're in and out in hot weather, in cold weather, and they're also carrying a number of tools on their belt," said Officer Roder.

In an effort to explore better options for this issue, Eau Claire Police reached out for help, partnering with Mayo Clinic and UW-Eau Claire in a research study. The research study would explore if moving police equipment from the traditional belt, to a vest on their shoulders and chest.

“We’re exploring is this load shift from the midsection to the upper body better for decreasing the risk of lower back pain and lower back discomfort,” said Jeff Janot, Kinesiology Dept. Chair at UW-Eau Claire.

With just a handful of student involved in this research study, one of them shares how it feels to be a part of a project, that could ultimately lead to a change in the police department. "I’m so glad to be a part of this study because its not something that's just held within the university, you're giving back to the community, you're helping these officers which then in turn helps them protect everyone, keep us safe," said Chantal Bougie, Kinesiology Student.

More than a dozen officers are participating in the study. Some of them carrying equipment on vests, while others continue using the traditional belt. The study will determine which option lowers risks of health concerns. UW-Eau Claire expects the study will be completed by May of 2018.