As a firefighter, you have long known yours is a dangerous calling. Indeed, outstanding training, a top-flight crew and diligent observance of proper procedures cannot prevent or anticipate what happens in the spur of the moment when a floor buckles beneath you or the ceiling collapses above you.
Statistically, the greatest number of injuries and traumas you will experience over the course of your firefighting career is “invisible” ones. This is both good and bad.
From strains to exposures, no one can see the damage
To be truthful, you would never want your injuries to be visible to your loved ones and co-workers. On the other hand, there are a number of wounds that hinder you from being at your best or even prevent you from doing your job. This can be problematic when you simply cannot perform your duties even though the injuries themselves are not visible. Even worse, sometimes authorities assume since the injuries are not seen they do not exist.
You are not alone in facing invisible injuries
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) collected data on firefighter injuries from 2019, the last year for which information was available. The injury total is stunning:
- Almost 61,000 firefighters suffered injuries on duty
- More than 7500 had exposure to contagious diseases
- More than 24,500 had exposure to hazardous conditions
- More than 40% of injuries were invisible: muscle tears, sprains, soft tissue and joint damage
From smoke-induced asthma to injury-induced arthritis to PTSD, there are many wounds that are unseen by others and ultimately will not heal. The greater injury is when these issues are not officially recognized.