According to a University of the Basque Country thesis, rescuers are advised not to carry loads exceeding 20% of their body weight

The PhD thesis defended by Aitor Pinedo-Jauregi is dedicated to professional mountain rescuers and aims to describe how carrying a backpack affects their physical performance when they have to do their work. He collaborated with rescuers from the mountain unit of the Ertzaintza Surveillance and Rescue Division (Police Service of the Basque Autonomous Community).

Mountain sports are one of the most popular activities. According to the latest survey of sporting habits, it’s number one in Spain and number five in the Basque Country. What is more, the Spanish Federation for Mountain and Climbing Sports (FEDME) is ranked number four in terms of total number of licences.

According to the latest data on accident rates published in the Basque Autonomous Community, mountain rescues have increased in recent decades. In 2021, the mountain unit acted on 620 occasions, 570 of which were rescues and 50 searches.

Depending on the type of accident and the difficulty of access, rescuers often have to carry equipment, which can affect their physical performance and the success of their mission. And this is in addition to other external factors (height, weather, etc.). When these factors are exacerbated by hazardous situations, the physical capacity of rescuers and their own safety may be compromised.

Pinedo-Jauregui advises mountain rescuers not to carry loads equal to or greater than 20% of their body weight in backpacks. “The indicated weight allows them to walk on the slopes without undue deterioration in their physical performance. Rescue teams will be able to take this aspect into account when developing or modifying existing protocols,” says Pinedo-Jaregui.

Aitor Pinedo-Jauregi, holder of a PhD in Physical Activity and Sport, is the author of the international thesis entitled Analysis of biomechanical and physiological parameters of professional mountain rescuers during backpacking. To write up his thesis he received pre-doctoral support from the Basque Government and spent time at CeRISM (Rovereto, Italy), a research centre attached to the University of Verona.

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