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February/March 2015 (vol. 11/5)

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Research Plus

Sudden cardiac death in police work

Stressful law enforcement duties are associated with a massively raised risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in police officers, this US case-distribution analysis reveals. Information on SCDs was obtained from a database tracking all police officer deaths in the line of duty – 441 SCDs were recorded over the 25 years to 2010. One quarter (25%) were associated with restraints or altercations; 23% with routine duties; 20% with physical training; 12% with pursuit of suspects; and 19% on other activities. Relative risks (RR) were calculated for the various activities, with routine, non-emergency work as the reference. Significant raised risks for frontline officers were associated with: restraint/physical altercation – RR = 69.0 (CI 52.6–90.5); pursuit – RR = 50.8 (CI 36.4–70.8); physical training RR = 23.3 (CI 17.5–30.9); medical/rescue operations – RR = 8.98 (CI 6.09–13.3); transporting/supervising prisoners – RR = 6.27 (CI 3.80–10.4); and serving warrants – RR = 2.87 (CI 1.26– 6.55). The study notes that for many police officers most of the day is spent on sedentary work ‘punctuated by unpredictable short periods of stressful activities’. The findings may be applicable to other relatively sedentary occupations with similar bursts of activity. 

BMJ 2014; 349: g6534. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g6534

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Occupational Health at Work February/March 2015 (vol. 11/5) pp39