The Effects of Simulated Wildland Firefighting Tasks on Core Temperature and Cognitive Function under Very Hot Conditions

Williams-Bell, F. Michael and Aisbett, Brad and Murphy, Bernadette A. and Larsen, Brianna (2017) The Effects of Simulated Wildland Firefighting Tasks on Core Temperature and Cognitive Function under Very Hot Conditions. Frontiers in Physiology, 8:815. pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

Background
The severity of wildland fires is increasing due to continually hotter and drier summers. Firefighters are required to make life altering decisions on the fireground, which requires analytical thinking, problem solving, and situational awareness. This study aimed to determine the effects of very hot (45°C; HOT) conditions on cognitive function following periods of simulated wildfire suppression work when compared to a temperate environment (18°C; CON).

Methods
Ten male volunteer firefighters intermittently performed a simulated fireground task for 3 h in both the CON and HOT environments, with cognitive function tests (paired associates learning and spatial span) assessed at baseline (cog 1) and during the final 20-min of each hour (cog 2, 3, and 4). Reaction time was also assessed at cog 1 and cog 4. Pre- and post- body mass were recorded, and core and skin temperature were measured continuously throughout the protocol.

Results
There were no differences between the CON and HOT trials for any of the cognitive assessments, regardless of complexity. While core temperature reached 38.7°C in the HOT (compared to only 37.5°C in the CON; p < 0.01), core temperature declined during the cognitive assessments in both conditions (at a rate of −0.15 ± 0.20°C·hr−1 and −0.63 ± 0.12°C·hr−1 in the HOT and CON trial respectively). Firefighters also maintained their pre-exercise body mass in both conditions, indicating euhydration.

Conclusions
It is likely that this maintenance of euhydration and the relative drop in core temperature experienced between physical work bouts was responsible for the preservation of firefighters' cognitive function in the present study.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Health and Wellbeing (1 Jan 2015 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Health and Wellbeing (1 Jan 2015 -)
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2020 22:26
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2020 06:15
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognition, thermoregulation, heat stress, firefighters, occupation
Fields of Research (2008): 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science > 110602 Exercise Physiology
Fields of Research (2020): 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4207 Sports science and exercise > 420702 Exercise physiology
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 92 Health > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920505 Occupational Health
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00815
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/39583

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