Cardiovascular and Psycho- physiological Reaction during Police Action and Combat Shooting

Riccardo Fenici, Donatella Brisinda, Peter Fenici

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


"Flight or fight" reflex is the instictive survival reaction to perceived danger. In humans the first emotional reaction is fear and to "flight" away from danger. However fear mobilizes also strength for "fight" and survival. This is fundamental for police officers (POs), responding to the danger. So far no information is available about the interaction between emotional and cardiovascular (CV) response during “real combat” and their effects on the outcome of a lethal force (LF) confrontation. We have investigated the cardiovascular adaptation during combat shooting using two models. 1) National IPSC competition (6 shooters), 2) Man-versus-Man real combat, with paint-bullets (10 S.W.A.T POs), under different tactical scenarios. ECG and Blood pressure (BP)were recorded with Holter equipments. Psychological stress was rated by a questionnaire and behaviour was studied with TV cameras. <B>Results:</B> Marked tachycardia, above 180 beats per minute was recorded in 4 IPSC shooters, during "field course" stages. In 2 of them the heart rate (HR) under stress reached about 200 beats per minute, for the occurrence of unsustained paroxysmal atrial tachyarrhythmias. BP behaviour was different among the 6 IPSC shooters, with mean systolic ranging between 140 and 170 mmHg and maximal systolic between 160 e 240 mmHg. In Police combat scenarios, HR was above 150 bpm in all POs, even during expectation of danger, and above 170 bpm during shootings. HR above 180 bpm was often associated with irrational behaviour and poor situational control. <B>Conclusion:</B> CV monitoring evidenced different psycho-physiological reactions in POs exposed to the same situational stress. Abnormal HR and BP values were clearly associated with individual behavioural impairment, lack of tactical efficacy and winnig attitude. CV monitoring of POs, during tactical training in LF scenarios, is useful to evaluate individual psycho-physical reactions and capability to cope with combat stress, and to develope more effective training methods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of XIV World Congress of Cardiology 2002
Publication statusPublished - 2002
EventXIV World Congress of Cardiology 2002 - Sydney
Duration: 5 May 20029 May 2002


ConferenceXIV World Congress of Cardiology 2002


  • Cardiovascular reactions
  • Shooting


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