Gerald S. Poplin of the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson, and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, looked at data for injuries sustained while at work from 2004 to 2009 for 21 fire stations serving Tucson.
The 650 employees included firefighters, paramedics, engineers, inspectors and battalion chiefs -- average age was 41 and all but 5 percent were men, Poplin said.
The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, found the average annual incidence of new injuries was 17.7 per 100 employees -- most in their 30s and 40s -- and injuries sustained while exercising accounted for one-third of the total, while one in 10 injuries were sustained during simulated training drills.
An additional 17 percent were caused while transporting patients, and one in 10 injuries occurred during firefighting -- but a greater proportion of these injuries were more serious, the study said.
The number of structural fires dropped steadily since the 1970s -- due to the smoke detectors and a reduction in smokers -- but firefighters have taken on other responsibilities and are now considered first responders for all types of medical emergency, including natural disasters and acts of terrorism, the researchers said.