Before we answer that question, lets talk equipment. When people think of a firefighter, they usually picture them wearing their turnout gear along with their fancy helmets carrying hoses or ladders and maybe an ax. All of those tools are important in protecting firefighters and assisting with putting out a fire, but there’s one piece of equipment that is just as, if not more important than the others:
SCBA is short for Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. This particular device is what allows firefighters to work inside or around an environment that has materials dangerous to respiratory health. Unlike the ambient environment around us on a daily basis, the amount of clean air contained within the tanks on that piece of equipment is limited.
Yes, but what does that have to do with baskebtall?
When we’re on the fire-ground, doing work, we are constantly exerting ourselves and while “on air” we have to pay attention at how much we consume and what rate we consume it at. Basketball as it turns out is an exercise that allows us to exert a similar amount of energy as we would on the job while being in a safe, controlled environment.
VO2max is a term some people might hear thrown around, especially in regards to sports. VO2max is defined as: “The measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise.” There are a variety of things that can effect what an individuals VO2max is including cardio fitness, body size, height, environment, etcetera.
For firefighters, when we are wearing our SCBA’s, our VO2max is decreased by nearly 15% both while resting and performing work ( Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. 2005; 30:507- 19). This means that our body is working harder to accomplish the same tasks as we would be if breathing clean, ambient air.
So playing basketball while geared up is very helpful to us, not only in understanding the science of our physical ability but allowing us to get used to, and better manage our exertion. That way, we can continue to become more efficient firefighters.
Next stop: 2020 Olympic dream team?