Greenwood police and fire departments benefit from new athletic training program
The pain and inflexibility got worse.
From years of being a firefighter, Larry Rockwell had an injured right knee that doctors said needed replacing. The Greenwood Fire Department battalion commander had had sore legs the whole time.
“My knees, my legs, there really wasn’t any strength. There was constant pain,” he said.
But in the past six weeks, Rockwell has found relief with the help of an athletic trainer.
He’s one of many Greenwood firefighters and law enforcement officers to benefit from a unique new partnership. The city has agreed to work with Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, formerly known as Methodist Sports Medicine, to provide tactical athlete services for both departments.
Since April, officers and firefighters have been able to access a wide range of services – from biomechanical analysis to individualized injury prevention programs and orthopedic assessment. Greenwood is one of the first cities in Indiana and the nation to have an embedded athletic trainer offering these services.
By doing this, leaders hope to improve the lives of public safety officers and make communities safer.
“The more versatile and comfortable you are as a person, the better you can do your job. It’s just that being a police and firefighter has a lot more to do with your physical health than a desk job,” said Maura “Mo” Shea, who leads Forté’s tactical athlete program.
The partnership was inspired by the work Shea has been doing across the state over the past several years. After earning her bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Xavier University and a clinical doctorate in athletic training from Indiana State University, she was offered the opportunity to work with the Terre Haute Fire Department as the final part of her residency.
The experience was eye opening.
“It literally gave me the keys to make it work. I knew nothing. I hadn’t done a preschool trip to a fire station and didn’t know what anything was. So I just jumped in at the deep end,” Shea said. “But it went very well. It had a much higher volume rate than the Chief was expecting.”
The Terre Haute program was the first in the country to offer athletic training services to state public safety departments, and one of only about five in the United States. They were the only ones to embed a coach in a department.
The success they saw sparked excitement across the country, said Sue Franklin, Forte Sports Medicine’s director of marketing.
“Embedding is important because it comes from the sports world. In the 1950’s we started to connect team (doctors) directly to team. You get better relationships, you get to know the athletes — their tendencies, their health conditions, their characteristics compared to someone in a clinic just waiting for a patient to show up,” she said. “There’s a trust that’s being built.”
Through the process, the trainers also learn about the patients’ families, their interests and hurts that they might not otherwise have disclosed.
“It becomes a whole different conversation and you learn a lot more pathologies in that person. They might not tell you that picking up their toddler hurts if you don’t start talking about their toddler,” Shea said.
After speaking at the Indiana Emergency Responders Conference about integrating wellness programs into fire departments, a team from Methodist Sports Medicine approached her to lead the tactical athlete program.
Tactical athlete services include aspects such as preventive care, health maintenance support, injury triage, emergency care and rehabilitation.
The first thing the team does with each department is the screening. They perform basic concussion screening and offer an evidence-based approach to where a person is typically compared to what they may be experiencing after a head injury.
Clinical screenings help measure functional movement in and out of their uniform or gear. Other tests measure mobility in joints involved in police or fire service work.
A follow-up survey gathers more information that was issued to better focus treatment, Shea said.
“Police and firefighters don’t like answering surveys. But if you put it in context, so we’re going to build your individual program, and so we’re going to improve health care for your brothers and sisters in this profession nationwide, we’re getting an incredibly high response rate,” she said.
All the different data points come along with the goals that a patient has for their individual prevention program. Entire teams or units also work on injury prevention.
After providing tactical supplies to the Carmel Police Department, the Bloomington Fire and Police Departments, and the White River Township Fire Department, Greenwood inquired about joining the program.
“We pride ourselves on investing in and providing the best quality of life for residents and visitors, and that starts with public safety,” said Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers. “With our Forté partnership, the goal is to ensure our first responders receive quality care so they can perform their best.”
Providing this type of care can save the city money in the long run while also making the city safer, said Darin Hoggatt, Greenwood Fire Chief.
“Taking a firefighter off work because of an injury costs our department hundreds of dollars a day and negatively impacts that firefighter and his or her family,” Hoggatt said. “We anticipate this program will help save money and improve team performance and morale, which is important as we work to preserve the lives and property of everyone who lives in the city of Greenwood and it.” to visit.”
Forté offers services to the city for a flat fee, which means police officers and firefighters can access supplies as often as needed without an additional fee, Shea said.
To accommodate the program, Greenwood officials renovated what was formerly a meeting hall for veterans of foreign wars. The building is now filled with treatment tables, exercise machines, weights, and other equipment. The location offers a place close to the police and fire departments to get treatment. Work at the site began in early April.
Shea works full-time as an instructor for the White River Community Fire Department and oversees instructors at other locations.
To provide tactical training at Greenwood, Forté hired athletic trainer Dave Walston, who had served as a coach with the Indianapolis Colts for nearly 30 years.
The training of public safety personnel and athletes has many similarities, Walston said.
“Both train very hard to do their jobs. They just have different skills. However, within those abilities, they both have very similar movement patterns,” Walston said. “I don’t care if you squat, if you lunge or hurdle, if you lift, pull or push, they’re very similar movement patterns.”
But serving the tactical athletes has a special meaning.
“It’s a pleasure to work with these guys. The most important thing to me is that these men and women serve the Greenwood community. By serving them, I’m a small part of serving Greenwood,” Walston said.
Rockwell has been under treatment by Walston since early April. From day one he noticed a significant improvement.
“I come two to three times a week and (Walston) has been working on me. I don’t have anywhere near the pain I used to have,” he said. “My flexibility is much better. I’ve built flexibility in my quads where I didn’t have before. It’s been a slow process but he’s worked very diligently to get where I need to be.”
Having access to this type of service, which he can use whenever it suits his schedule, has been incredibly beneficial.
“It’s huge. There wasn’t a time I couldn’t call him or text him, and he can reach me that day. I usually plan for the week and go from there,” Rockwell said. It was a great thing.”