Reducing Robust Health-Relevant Cardiovascular Stress Responses Among Active-Duty Special Forces Police

  • P Andersen J
  • Papazoglou K
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Policing presents a complex set of risk factors for occupational health and safety among officers, including environmental, psychosocial, and health risks. Environmental risks include facing critical incidents such as violent offenders, hostage negotiations, intense crime scenes, and irate civilians. Critical incidents are high pressure situations that are typically time sensitive, and elicit substantial physiological threat responses. When facing a threat, the body normally responds by going into a “fight-or-flight” mode, in which a host of physiological and psychological processes are invoked to help the body cope successfully with the threat [1]. For example, heart rate increases, digestion stops, blood flow to the brain moves from prefrontal cortex (logical thought) to the hindbrain (instinctual drives), and a person becomes less cognitively aware of their surroundings and more focused on fighting or fleeing from the threat. The natural and instinctual physiological response to threat may place police officers at a greater risk of injury or death, by reducing their situational awareness (i.e., ability to notice important environmental stimuli and other threats in their environment), and split-second decision making skills (e.g. shoot/don’t shoot). Advanced police teams called Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officers, are called to the highest risk encounters [2]. The current research is the first to observe robust cardiovascular reactivity among SWAT officers during multiple, active duty shifts. Significant cardiovascular reactivity may pose a health risk to SWAT officers over time. Accordingly, this research documents the case examples from one team of SWAT officers who applied a simple cardiovascular and respiratory control technique during daily activities. Results suggest that this micro-intervention may have significant positive impact on daily cardiovascular health among SWAT officers.




P Andersen, J., & Papazoglou, K. (2016). Reducing Robust Health-Relevant Cardiovascular Stress Responses Among Active-Duty Special Forces Police. General Medicine: Open Access, 04(02).

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