The First-of-its-Kind Research, Supervised by Internationally Recognized Neuropsychiatrist Dr. John Ratey, Aims to Better Understand Role of Physical Fitness in Treating Responses to Occupational Stress in Police and Firefighters
FRISCO, Texas (June 23, 2021) — Sparking Life today announced the recent launch of a first-of-its-kind study to determine how physical exercise builds resilience to the effects of trauma and stress among first responders. Lead researchers First Responder Stress & Trauma (F1RST) and Endominance are conducting the study in conjunction with supporting researcher InBody. As many as 400 first responders from police and fire departments in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area are participating in the study over the course of 90 days.
All active first responders in North Texas are eligible, with the majority of participants hailing from the Frisco and Little Elm Police and Fire Departments, which have all officially committed to support the study.
The study kicked off earlier this month at Sports Academy, a state-of-the-art human performance company headquartered at the Sports Therapy & Research Institute in Frisco, TX. Sports Academy is formally involved in the study while aiding in testing and administration and serving as a host site for implementation of study protocols.
Each participant is to engage in aerobic exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes per workout, five days per week. Participant activity—including data captured during workouts such as heart rate and number of steps taken, as well as sleep metrics—is tracked using Amazfit Band 5 wearable devices. One device is provided to each participant, courtesy of MSC Brain, a multi-national research and support center. Body composition metrics also are captured from all participants during the pre-, mid- and post-study points using the InBody 770 analyzer. Cognitive data will be gathered using the COSEC (Cognitive Orientation & Social Emotional Competencies) Assessment, a proprietary online evaluation tool developed by Endominance, Inc.
The research is the first-ever, large-scale study to examine how physical exercise may help first responders increase their resilience to the trauma they experience in the field. The physiological and cognitive data gathered in this study will be used for comparative analysis with future research examining trauma experienced by first responders. Ongoing collaborative efforts are anticipated in order to continue to identify and provide solutions for first responders.
Sparking Life, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the brain-fitness connection, will oversee project operations. Sparking Life President and Co-Founder Dr. John J. Ratey, an Associate Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School and an internationally recognized neuropsychiatrist, will supervise the research.
“We are thrilled to begin this important research to better understand and support the needs of first responders. Until now, a study analyzing both psychological and physiological data has never been conducted within this unique population,” said Dr. Ratey. “The positive effects that consistent cardiovascular exercise can have on the brain—including improvements to mental health, cognition and mood—are already proven. But successfully addressing the extraordinary demands placed upon a first responder’s nervous system requires a customized treatment modality, which served as the inspiration for this study.”
Heather Twedell, a first responder psychologist with over 13 years of experience and the founder of F1RST, will drive the project in the role of lead researcher. As a daughter and sister of police officers, Dr. Twedell’s significant personal and professional experience provides a strong understanding of the culture and stressors specific to this demographic.
“Our vision is that this study will foster a new standard of wellness in first responders. Not just for the police and fire departments that can afford it, but a universal standard to ensure every first responder is informed, prepared, supported and healthy in order to navigate his or her career without sacrificing quality of life in the process,” said Dr. Twedell. “As a first responder psychologist and family member, I have a deep understanding of the impact from trauma and threat exposure. These individuals have a front row seat to some of life’s most horrific events, with minimal recovery time and the guarantee that future exposure awaits. Unfortunately, there has been lacking emphasis on first responder wellness, contributing to poor coping skills, health issues, impairment to on-duty performance, and a negative impact on relationships.”
Endominance, a leading assessment and data analytics firm headquartered in California, serves as fellow lead researcher. Under the guidance of CEO Paul Lee, Endominance measures and determines the unique cognitive data for each participant. Endominance will also collect psychological data using the PHQ-9 and PCL-5.
“The results of this study will allow for the creation of evidence-based solutions that, most importantly, are specific to first responders,” said Lee. “Endominance is proud to play a central role in this study. In doing so, we will provide cognitive markers that measure and identify the distinct patterns related to how a first responder perceives his or her environment, conceives various sensory signals, and then applies them to decisions and behavior.”
“Our hope is that this study is just the start of a larger movement towards healthier lifestyle changes and support for all first responders,” said Chuck Menke, former Sparking Life Board Member. “There is simply not enough research in this area. And—without research—first responders, department heads, and state and federal policy makers often lack the information necessary to fully understand the gravity of the first responder’s situation.”
Supporting researcher, InBody, an international leader in Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) and body composition analysis, is a key collaborator in the study. The InBody 770 device will be used in the study to calculate participant physical metrics, contributing physiological data.
Harry Yun, CEO of InBody USA expressed his enthusiasm about the venture. “We share the same goal of making better health and wellness easier to achieve. Our Clinical Research team has observed how mental health can affect immunity, inflammation, and fatigue,” said Yun. “We hope to find relationships to known biomarkers while discovering the impact that simply reading one’s InBody results can have on patient compliance, a long-standing hurdle in medicine. So for us, it’s as much about defining effective trauma care as it is about ensuring first responders stay the course. We’re very excited to combine our expertise to give back to those who selflessly serve our communities.”