Researchers begin 6-month Whoop – HRV, Sleep, and Recovery Study with Melissa Fire Department

Firefighters are not only responsible for daily-tasks around the department, but must also be prepared to respond to any incoming emergency (medical or fire) call throughout their shift (day or night). From this perspective, call load, call timing, tasks performed while on-shift, sleeping patterns, nutrition, and off-shift activity can all play factors into total recovery of firefighting personnel. With an increasing wave of wellness initiatives for the first responder community comes personnel willing to dedicate time and resources toward wellness program development. As an expansion of current research collaborations, the Health and Human Performance Department of Texas A&M University Commerce reached out to Melissa Fire Department to partake in a 6-month WHOOP – HRV, sleep, and recovery study. The purpose behind the HRV research collaboration between Jabai Performance, Texas A&M University – Commerce, and Melissa Fire Department is to:
1.) Provide a platform to assist participating firefighters in providing data to help regulate their off-shift physical activity
2.) Provide a means for participating firefighters to understand the impact that sleep, nutrition, job-
tasks/workload, and physical activity has on the body
3.) Provide a line of communication for personnel to engage in conversation with collaborating
parties regarding fitness and nutrition
4.) Provide insight on the impact that the current 24 hour on – 48 hours off shift schedule has on
participating firefighters

The Research

All participants must be full-time firefighting personnel. The participants will wear the WHOOP strap/device, funded by the Ronald McNair TRIO Scholar Award received by researcher Paula Flores, for the entire 6-month duration. Participants are to not remove the device throughout the 6 months, even while off duty. The WHOOP device will gather highly valuable information, such as quality of sleep, level of strain (external/internal stress), caloric expenditure, and heart-rate variability from participating personnel. This data will be collected, organized, and published as formal research in approved research journals. Research data will further encourage current and future researchers, practitioners, and tactical operators to evaluate the pros and cons of different shift types. The information will also encourage the on-going discussion regarding off-duty/on-duty activity and training regulation.

Introducing the Researchers

Paula Flores
Paula Flores is an upcoming senior majoring in Kinesiology and Sport Studies with a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is a Presidential and Ronald McNair Scholar and currently works as a Resident Assistant for Texas A&M University in Commerce. Paula is a mentor for the Office of Student Disabilities and a mentor for the
student organization Mujeres de Accion, which focuses on empowering first-generation Latina women in college. Paula also volunteers at St. Joseph Catholic Church as a Sunday school teacher and was involved in many service opportunities such as the Special Olympics and Operation Blue and Gold and was nominated for the change maker award. She participates in intramural sports such as tennis and softball. Paula Flores is an undergraduate research assistant, who assists with recruitment, device distribution, device storage, management of study data, and data entry for statistical analysis for the Longitudinal Study of Stress Recovery Indices and Heart Rate Variability in Full-Time Firefighters. Her goal is to make a difference every day, no matter how small the act may be. She hopes to become an Occupational Therapist and help people recover from injuries and at the same time boost their confidence in their abilities.

Paula Flores working in the HHP ROAR Exercise Physiology Lab.

Dr. Michael Oldham
A world-wide human performance practitioner and researcher, Dr. Michael Oldham holds a PhD in Exercise Physiology & Nutrition, exploring the role of supplements in human performance, stress, and recovery. Dr. Oldham’s 30 years of experience as a coach is spread across a variety of youth, collegiate, and professional sports, including a consulting coaching role with the US Women’s National Soccer Team prior to the 1996 Olympics. His current research objectives at Texas A&M University – Commerce center around stress and recovery and increasing mobility in first responders. Stress and recovery research is conducted using heart rate variability (HRV) and continual heart rate monitoring through heart rate monitors worn around the wrist, i.e., the WHOOP Heart Rate System. The WHOOP system allows both participants and researchers continual, 24-hour per day, data streaming that reports on strain, sleep, recovery, calories burned, and resting heart rate. The data is important to tactical athletes to provide stress management strategies, recovery day strategies, and nutritional intake needs on a day by day basis. As researchers gather longitudinal data, while educating first responders on proper data analysis, the data can also be used by municipalities to better structure shift rotations and shift timings. Helping the greater community use data to drive decision making at the highest level of the priority for the Texas A&M University – Commerce Health and Human Performance Department.

Dr. Michael Oldham explaining a Dari System movement analysis report to a Paris FD firefighter.

Hussien Jabai
Hussien Jabai, MS, CSCS, TSAC-F, CPT, is a tactical strength and conditioning professional with a focus in first responder fitness program development, first responder research, and TSAC practitioner professional development. As both an undergrad and grad student at Texas A&M University – Commerce, Mr. Jabai studied kinesiology through the Health and Human Performance Department,
worked as both a personal trainer and personal training manager at the campus recreation center, and devoted hours toward understanding the application of exercise science to tactical personnel. After finishing his master’s degree, Mr. Jabai now dedicates his time toward presenting on the concepts of strength and conditioning for the tactical community, forming research collaborations driven to improve the lives of first responders, consulting with departments on wellness program initiatives, and developing continued education programs designed to educate both exercise science professionals and the tactical personnel that they service. As an expansion to developing education opportunities for TSAC practitioners, Mr Jabai is currently collaborating with the Health and Human Performance department of Texas A&M University – Commerce to offer TSAC practitioner courses for both a certificate program and as credit for student degree plans. Mr. Jabai is currently serving TAMUC as adjunct faculty for the Health and Human Performance Department, driving the initiative for TSAC curriculum within the academic setting.

Hussien Jabai working with Paris Fire Department during a research project training intervention.

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability, known as HRV, is the measured interval between heartbeats utilized as a marker of the capacity to regulate internal and external demands (Young, & Benton, 2018). A higher HRV is associated with better health (Young, & Benton, 2018), while a lower HRV has been associated with many negative health effects (shown below). The measured interval between beats is not always constant (Young, & Benton, 2018), therefore monitoring protocol should allow for a duration of time to develop a baseline for participants. Utilizing devices that monitor HRV is a noninvasive way of evaluating autonomic cardiac function (Harris, et al., 2014).

In a clinical setting, low HRV is associated with mortality in patients with:

  • coronary artery disease
  • chronic heart failure
  • history of myocardial infarction

Low HRV associated with:

  • hypertension
  • end-stage renal disease
  • diabetes

(de Geus, et al., 2019)

Reduction of HRV also associated with the following:

  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • inflammation
  • obesity
  • psychiatric disorders

(Young, & Benton, 2018)


de Geus, E., Gianaros, P. J., Brindle, R. C., Jennings, J. R., & Berntson, G. G. (2019). Should heart rate variability be “corrected” for heart rate? Biological, quantitative, and interpretive considerations. Psychophysiology, 56(2), e13287.

Harris, P. R., Stein, P. K., Fung, G. L., & Drew, B. J. (2014). Heart rate variability measured early in patients with evolving acute coronary syndrome and 1-year outcomes of rehospitalization and mortality. Vascular health and risk management, 10, 451–464. 

Young, H. A., & Benton, D. (2018). Heart-rate variability: a biomarker to study the influence of nutrition on physiological and psychological health?. Behavioural pharmacology, 29(2 and 3-Spec Issue), 140–151. 

Jabai Performance and Texas A&M University Commerce Collaborate with Paris Fire Department on Research Study

In the public sector, it is becoming more common for exercise science professionals to join forces with the tactical community to incorporate injury management programs.

Read Firefighting On-Duty Injuries and Decreasing Potential Risk Factors

These programs are individualized and unique to a specific department or agency’s budget, resources, and or personnel experience/qualifications. The Texas Tactical Strength and Conditioning Academy (TXTSCA), run by Jabai Performance, continues to drive education and program development throughout the tactical population through research collaborations with local departments. Earlier in the year, Jabai Performance partnered with the Health and Human Performance Department at Texas A&M University – Commerce (TAMUC) to conduct research and provide resources for a local fire department. Dr. Michael Oldham, of TAMUC, is the driving influence from the university staff to support and coordinate the use of exercise physiology resources for first responder research. The research being conducted by Mr. Jabai and Dr. Oldham investigates the impact that a 6-week strength and conditioning program has on the lumbar spine of full-time firefighters. TAMUC is responsible for technology use, procedure of assessment, and data collection; while Jabai Performance performs the strength and conditioning programming portion, conducts training interventions, and evaluates pre/post data comparisons. Although each entity has their own “role” within the study, the partnership involves assisting each other and providing an extra hand when something needs to be accomplished, a clear example of teamwork.

The research conducted with the Melissa Fire Department can be VIEWED HERE.

In order to continue data collection and increase participant count, the researchers expanded the study to include other departments.

Prior Research with Melissa Fire Department: City of Melissa Press Release—Melissa-firefighters-involved-in-fitness-research-study

With the expansion of the research study, Hussien Jabai of TXTSCA reached out to Chad Graves, Deputy Chief for A-Shift, of the Paris Fire Department to begin a collaborative partnership. The fire department showed immediate interest and went through the process of administration approval to begin the first steps in recruitment. From there, the recruitment process began with video calls for Mr. Jabai and Dr. Oldham to introduce themselves to the firefighters, explain the concepts of the study, answer any questions or concerns regarding the study, and explain the process of signing up to participate. Deputy Chief Graves assisted Mr. Jabai and Dr. Oldham further through coordinating the personnel participation, organizing for each station personnel to join meetings and attend assessment/training interventions, and relay information throughout the process.

After nearly a week post video call based recruitment, Mr. Jabai, Dr. Oldham, and TAMUC graduate research assistants traveled out to Paris Fire Department with the DARI System, a markerless movement capture software being utilized for the pre and post program assessments.

Learn more about DARI Motion HERE

The Paris Fire Department consists of 3 stations, with approximately 50 personnel. Within each station, firefighters are divided into 3 different shifts on a 24 hr on/ 48 hr off shift schedule (A Shift, B Shift, C Shift). Due to assistance from staff and cooperation from participants, Dr. Oldham and the graduate research assistants were able to set up the movement capture system in the bay of Station 1 and have personnel from each station meet at one location for assessments. The entire assessment lasted approximately 10-15 minutes per personnel.

After all assessments utilizing DARI were complete, firefighters than began a training intervention with TSAC-F Instructor Hussien Jabai. Mr. Jabai explained the reasoning behind exercise selection, demonstrated each movement prescribed in the study, and corrected exercise technique for those needing assistance. Each participant went through the entire warm-up, movement prep, and workout while asking questions and addressing concerns. The training intervention is a vital factor in any training study, as that is where you “set the stage” or “tone” for the remainder of the prescription. For this study, participants will now complete the 6-weeks of strength and conditioning, then perform a post-assessment to evaluate the efficiency of the program.

View DARI Assessment and Training Intervention Highlight Reel Below

Currently, firefighters have begun Week 1 of the 6-week study. We will continue to update news reports and articles on the research as the program developments.

Media Coverage on research collaboration with Paris Fire Department:

Hussien Jabai, MS, CSCS, Collaborates with Human Performance Department of Texas A&M University Commerce to Conduct Firefighter Research

The wellness initiative within the tactical community has inspired exercise science professionals to collaborate with police departments, fire departments, military bases, academies, and universities to provide new innovations in wellness services. As data builds within the published literature discussing injury rates, cause of injury, and details of injury scenarios within the firefighting community, it is time for academics to catch up on publishing literature in regard to injury prevention/management programs.

Read Firefighting On-Duty Injuries and Decreasing Potential Risk Factors

To assist in combating the statistics of firefighter injuries, Hussien Jabai, MS, CSCS, has been working alongside the Melissa Fire Department as a tactical strength and conditioning instructor. In 2018, Mr. Jabai volunteered to provide a 12-week pilot study to display the benefits of an organized and research-driven injury prevention program. Although the pilot study was not published, Mr. Jabai constructed pre and post testing to illustrate the impact that the strength and conditioning program has on performance and movement patterns. The program incorporated dynamic warm up sequences, corrective exercise, strength training methods, circuit training, and variations of interval training. The positive results of the post-test were presented to the administration of the department and the city for program funding requests. Since 2019, Hussien Jabai has been providing strength and conditioning programming for the department and consulting with administration on program development.

(If you would like to consult with Mr. Jabai on program design/development, feel free to contact us here.)

As a former graduate student of Texas A&M University in Commerce, Mr. Jabai reached out to his former professor and colleague Dr. Michael Oldham, in the Human Performance Department, to collaborate on firefighter research. Dr. Oldham and Mr. Jabai worked together to complete the review of past literature and construct a research proposal to acquire IRB approval. The primary objective of the research was to evaluate the impact of a 6-week strength and conditioning program on lumbar spine mobility in full-time firefighters. The phrase “full-time” is key in the research protocol, as a standard schedule for full-time personnel requires being at the station every 3 days for a 24-hour shift. Physical activity can be mandated for firefighters during shift but cannot be mandated off-shift. Additionally, the research project aims to identify the pros and cons of restricted training schedules, e.g., every 3 days.

The highlight of the research revolves around the unique testing method of utilizing the DARI Motion Capture System. DARI, a cutting edge markerless motion capture system, allows the research to be done remotely, without the use of reflective markers for motion capture.

Click Here to visit the Dari system Website

Pre-testing with the DARI System consisted of 3 consecutive days, covering all 3 shifts (Shift A, B, and C). Dr. Oldham, accompanied by graduate research assistants of the Human Performance Department of TAMUC, brought the system to the Melissa Fire Department. The DARI system was set up by Dr. Oldham and the graduate research assistants within the bay of the station an hour prior to the scheduled testing time. Dr. Oldham and his assistants were responsible for set up and utilization of the DARI system. Prior to participating in testing, firefighters read and signed informed consent / liability forms. Post movement analysis via DARI and report explanation, Mr. Jabai coordinated the fitness instruction portion of the study. Mr. Jabai had firefighters walk through the exercise prescription portion of the study to evaluate form and provide modifications when needed. Jabai also discussed protocol for progression of repetitions, training load, and rest durations. Firefighters were also notified to complete a Google form post training to document session completion and provide feedback. As the availability within the fire community is unpredictable due to spontaneous emergency calls, the group of exercise science professionals freed up their entire morning schedules to allow for gaps between testing participants. The pre-testing has been complete, firefighters are currently at the early stages of their 6-week exercise prescription, and post-testing will be scheduled in the next few weeks to evaluate program effectiveness.

TTSCA would like to encourage exercise science professionals to contribute in the mission toward a higher quality of wellness within the tactical community. We would love to collaborate with departments and tactical professionals around the nation, and worldwide. If you need a strength and conditioning program, would love to collaborate on research, are interested in annual fitness testing, or would like to meet with a TSAC Consultant, please complete our CONTACT FORM and note your purpose of communication.

Author: Hussien Jabai, MS, CSCS