Long Beach Police
Clinical Study…the Effects of the SpeedSet Duty Belt System in Law Enforcement
Officers with Back Pain
Back pain and radicular leg pain are common complaints of
law enforcement officers and result in a significant economic burden in terms
of lost days of work, light duty work, temporary and permanent disability,
worker’s compensation benefits, healthcare premiums and community safety.
Commonly, the etiology of this back and radicular leg pain is due to the
equipment worn on the duty belt during the course of work.
The Sam Browne duty belt has been in existence since the
19th century, with early versions having a vertical shoulder strap attached to
the belt for the purpose of additional support. Nearly all U.S. versions of the
Sam Browne exclude the vertical support, placing the entire weight of the belt
and attached equipment solely on the hips and low back.
DutySmith has manufactured the SpeedSet Duty belt with two
primary purposes in mind, 1) providing additional comfort while wearing the duty
belt; and 2) convenience of placing attachments to the duty belt. The comfort
is derived from a unique design using rubber padding that encompasses a
flexible metal frame.
The metal frame better distributes the weight of the
equipment attached to the belt and minimizes “hot spots” commonly found on
leather and nylon belts. The convenience of the SpeedSet comes from the ability
to place and remove attachments (holsters, magazine holders, cuff cases, key
holders, etc.) directly on the belt without having to remove the buckle and
other attachments. This study only focused on the comfort of the belt.
The clinical study was performed on law enforcement officers
of the Long Beach Police Department, Long Beach, Calif. Inclusionary criteria
for study subjects included individuals who were currently experiencing back or
radicular leg pain of moderate or greater intensity during their course of
work. Study subjects had an average tenure of 14.2 years in law enforcement
work, included both male and female officers, and performed duties from routine
patrol, patrol sergeants, and command staff.
All study subjects provided information on their current
medical history as it pertained to their back and/or radicular leg pain, and
were provided a focused medical examination by a physician. Study subjects then
wore the SpeedSet belt for the 15 weeks of the study. At the conclusion of the
study, all subjects were again medically examined and provided a post-study
evaluation of their back and/or radicular leg pain.
Ten officers participated in the study. Nine of the study
subjects reported statistically significant improvement in their pain and one
officer reported no change in their pain level. Specifically, there were
statistically significant reductions in pain frequency, pain intensity, and
baseline level of pain. No officers reported any worsening of their symptoms.
Objective medical findings included increased range of motion in flexion and
side bending at the conclusion of the study.
Study participants were also provided an option of providing
comments pre- and post- study. Of particular interest were the comments of two
patrol officers who noted that wearing the SpeedSet Duty Belt was as if they
“weren’t wearing a belt at all.” Additional comments included complete
resolution of pain, the ability to return to work sooner, and both difficulty
and ease of use of the buckle.
The SpeedSet belt system provided both subjective and
objective improvement in back and/or leg pain experienced by law enforcement
officers during their course of work. Although the study size was limited, the
inclusionary criteria of having moderate or greater active back and/or
radicular leg pain provided greater opportunity to focus on the benefits of
this belt system.
Further study may be needed to confirm similar findings in those
who only experience minor pain or discomfort from their Sam Browne belt, or to determine
if the SpeedSet belt system may also be effective in preventing back pain. Additionally,
further evaluation may be warranted to look at the convenience of the SpeedSet
belt system. The results of this preliminary study may provide law enforcement departments
an additional option in addressing equipment-induced back pain and/or leg pain
in their officers.
Kenneth S. Cheng,
D.O., Fellow American Academy of Family Physicians, is the author and investigator of this study. He is an active reserve deputy
sheriff and tactical physician for the SWAT unit of his department (and is not
a member of the department that participated in this study). Dr. Cheng is a
family physician in Newport Beach, Calif. He has no financial ownership interest in DutySmith, but was
compensated for his time in performing this study.