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Police, fire departments get embedded athletic trainers

White River Township Fire in Johnson County is one of six local departments to partner with Forte Sports Medicine and Orthopedics.

GREENWOOD, Ind — Some local police and fire departments have a new employee at the station.

Just like a football or basketball team, there's now an athletic trainer working full-time, embedded at the police station or firehouse.

It's a program that's growing throughout central Indiana, keeping first responders healthy and saving taxpayers money, too.

White River Township paramedic Brittany Chisholm is three weeks out from bicep surgery, after getting injured on the job.

But she's getting better faster and not missing a day of work because rehab is right at the firehouse.

"Really appreciate having it right here," Chisholm said. "It makes it easier for us and we've had great results from it."

White River Township Fire in Johnson County is one of six local departments to partner with Forte Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in the past two years.

Credit: WTHR

Tactical athletic trainers now work at the firehouse or police station full-time, focused specifically on first responders.

Dr. Maura Shea, who everyone knows as "Mo," leads the team for Forte Sports Medicine and Orthopedics.

"We're not returning them to football. We're not returning them to a desk job. Picking up patients, putting out fires, that's a completely different realm and different body movements so we have people that specialize in exactly that to be sure they get back safely," Shea explained.

Firefighter Matt Whalbring got treatment for tendinitis, developed while working out. It's something he may not have taken care of right away, if trainers weren't onsite.

"With these little injuries that we get, they can sometimes build into really big injuries because as firefighters, EMS, police, we tend to ignore them because we don't want to be off work," Whalbring said. "For me, it's made a difference."

Injury prevention is a big part of the program.

Credit: WTHR

The Greenwood Fire Department, for example, partnered with Forte and started working with athletic trainers in the late spring.

All of the firefighters had initial assessments, then got an individualized plan to work on weekly - sometimes in groups, often at work and then at home, too.

"That way we can locate any asymmetries that they have, things that aren't hurt yet and we can prevent them from becoming a larger issue," Shea explained.

Fire and police departments split the cost of the trainers with Forte 50-50.

And in the long run, Shea said it saves communities money because fewer tax dollars are spent on overtime.

First responders don't miss work from injury in the first place.

"It's saving you money, keeping you safe and then we're making their quality of life better in the meantime," she said.

Better protecting the men and women who protect all of us.

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