Alpine physical therapists Leah Versteegen and Jess Kehoe got first hand experience of the physical challenges facing Forest Service ax and saw loggers. Their work with two such experts is chronicled in Friday’s Missoulian and is titled: Tactical Athletes: Forest Service Adds PT to Logging Training. Click here for the entire article.
Special thanks to Leah for providing additional information below.
Hiking into the hills west of Stevensville, Montana we could hear the hum of a chainsaw well from the valley below. On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, Jess Kehoe and I, two PTs from Alpine, donned our hard hats and joined some of the top sawyers in Western Montana for an educational session on the art of sawing, limbing, and bucking trees.
Our purpose for the afternoon was to evaluate the mechanics, physical and mental demands of the profession. It was truly impressive to witness in person the efficiency with which these sawyers can quickly and swiftly take down and disassemble a tree.
As tactical athletes, the season for a sawyer in Western Montana consists of long hard days bringing down weakened trees that have been damaged by fire, clearing trails, and removing hazards. They work their bodies hard, typically with a lot of repetitive motion for days on end.
We, as physical therapists, typically do not get to see these workers until after an injury has sidelined them or at the end of their season when they finally have time to address their nagging aches and pains. Part of our mission at Alpine PT is to educate and promote wellness in our community.
This day in woods with the Regional and National Directors of the Saw program was the first step in Alpine’s collaboration with the Saw Program to rewrite their training manual to include the missing elements of wellness education and injury prevention.
Jess and I learned the art of using an axe and cross cut saw and observed some of the best sawyers in the region handling their chainsaws to efficiently bring down fire-damaged trees. We will now take this experience to help us work with the Saw Program Directors to develop a new training manual with important sections that were previously not included.
Specifically, we will add education on the biomechanics of an efficient sawyer, training guidelines to prepare for the job and minimize risk of overuse injuries, recovery strategies during the long days, and helping understand the human factors of the job, such as how stress can affect performance and ultimately improve safety. Hopefully with better preparation we don’t have to see these guys and gals in our office quite as often.
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