Law enforcement Research/studies

Chasing suspects puts police at higher risk of sudden cardiac death: study

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Boston – Chasing and restraining suspects, in addition to other chaotic encounters, puts police officers at an approximately 30 percent to 70 percent higher risk of sudden cardiac death, suggests a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health and Cambridge Health Alliance.

Researchers reviewed 441 sudden cardiac deaths among police officers from 1984 to 2010, as well as surveys from officers and police chiefs about their time spent on certain duties. They found that, compared to non-emergency tasks, risk of sudden cardiac death was:

  • 34-69 times higher during restraints or altercations
  • 32-51 times higher during chases
  • 20-23 times higher during physical training
  • 6 to 9 times higher during rescues

Researchers said the findings point toward the importance of measures to prevent cardiovascular disease in police officers. Measures could include increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Sudden cardiac death makes up about 10 percent of on-duty police officer deaths, according to a press release.

The study was published Nov. 18 in BMJ.