For Miami Valley Today
TROY — When Premier Health began offering its Healthy Heroes wellness and fitness program, it didn’t take long for the Troy Fire Department to hop on board.
“When they approached us, we leaped at the opportunity to be a partner. It fit well with our formal training and health, wellness, and fitness program for firefighters/paramedics,” said Lt. Aaron Simmons, who oversees the department training division.
“One of the things we liked is that they call us tactical athletes, give us similar treatment and focus to athletes but are more specific to our line of work and job,” he said.
The program comes coincides with an emerging body of data that show firefighters experience shorter life expectancy. They also have greater susceptibility to cancer as well as cardiac issues, which account for about 50 percent of firefighter fatalities nationwide, Aaron Simmons said.
Through the free program, Lt. Simmons works closely with Mitchell Simmons. (The two are not related.)
Mitchell Simmons and Brian Wheeler serve as the Healthy Heroes program’s athletic trainers, strength and conditioning specialists, and the tactical and strength conditioning facilitators. They visit fire departments in Troy, Huber Heights and other communities as well as one police department in the Dayton region. They see firefighters one- on- one providing preventative checks and education, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention, and rehabilitation of injuries and referral for medical conditions, as needed, Mitchell Simmons said.
The program is voluntary for Troy firefighters. Its popularity is growing.
“We have seen the momentum increase the last couple of months because we have seen success with guys getting rehabilitated, pains going away, stretching, flexibility,” Aaron Simmons said. “It seems like the guys are getting healthier, word is traveling, and more are participating. We want our staff to live a long time, enjoy their career and enjoy retirement with their families. With cardiac being our number one killer, programs like this are innovative and needed.”
The department has purchased new equipment such as rollers and stretching bands to help with flexibility and working out some muscles. A guidebook illustrates the equipment’s proper use. “For some, it is an eye opener because it has been so long since they focused on mobility and flexibility,” Mitchell Simmons said.
“We are creating a program to treat our tactical athletes to try to mitigate the effects of the very stressful job. We look at exercise, nutrition, stress reduction,” said Brett Hoffman, Premier Health coordinator of sports and human performance. “We want them to appreciate the athletes that they are. Our mantra is serving those who serve us, to help these people who take care of us in our worst time.”
Premier Health’s foundations pay for the program, which was first introduced for firefighters and EMS personnel and recently was expanded to police agencies.
“Tactical athletes must be strong, fast, and agile but also have the endurance to perform repeatedly,” said Teresa Leeper, Sports Medicine connections manager. “Their performance can directly affect those they are serving.”
Taking the program to the firehouse is a timesaver for first responders, said Jeff Rayborn, MD, a program medical director.
“It will be a bonus. We can see them in their workplace. It is easy to get an assessment and saves time. Overall, I think that will be great for health and wellness,” Dr. Rayborn said. “In their profession, there is more life and death involved. Our goal is to try to keep them performing to the best of their ability and be a resource for them.”