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Mayo and La Crosse Fire Department team up to enhance firefighter fitness

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It’s not just baseball and football players who go through daily training routines to be in top shape.

Firefighters have their own regular physical training routine, and the La Crosse Fire Department is teamed up with Mayo Clinic Health System in town to bring new technology to the training process.

Mayo sports medicine chair Dr. Jacob Erickson says an app can notice small things about a person’s body.

“We just hold up the app with the camera and the video,” Erickson said, “and then the person goes through various movements, and it can very efficiently identify asymmetry, so how one leg is moving, how one hip is moving, how their lower back is moving, and then we can use that to identify any restrictions and then correct that.”

One goal of the training program is to help firefighters breathe easier when they’re on the scene of a fire.

The sports medicine project uses high-tech equipment to help doctors and the fire department recommend types of exercise or other therapy to improve the health of the people who answer fire and emergency calls.

La Crosse Fire Captain Cory Westpfahl compares this type of training to what professional athletes do on their job.

“Just like an NFL team or a baseball team, they got their trainers that do specific stuff for those athletes, we’re athletes just in a different sense,” Westpfahl said, “and they’re gonna be able to tailor the workouts and physical therapy and stuff…for us, and make it benefit specific to firefighting.”

Westpfahl added that improving the fitness of firefighters could lead to less sick time, which may save tax money.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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