Heart rate variability profile changes associated with specialist police selection activities: A case study

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BACKGROUND: Police Tactical Groups (PTGs) are specialist police units tasked with rigorous physical and psychosocial duties. Consequently, selection courses (SCs) for service in these units must also be rigorous. Given the intensity of SCs, holistic monitoring for potential overstress may be beneficial. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is one holistic stress measure that can be obtained in austere environments.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to profile HRV during a PTG SC. Six (n = 6) qualified male police officers attempted a 36-hour PTG selection course held at an Australian state facility.

METHODS: HRV was obtained from Equivitaltrademark EQ02 + LifeMonitor bioharnesses. The selection course consisted of physically demanding events with minimal sleep (approx. 45 mins). Only one candidate completed the full selection course; whose results are reported here.

RESULTS: A visual time-series of 384 consecutive 5 min HRV analyses was generated. Contextual analysis was applied to appreciate HRV changes between SC serials. HRV decline occurred during the planning of a navigation exercise and a pack march. Increases in HRV were observed throughout the pack march exercise and rest period.

CONCLUSION: This case study demonstrates the potential utility for selection personnel to obtain additional insight into candidate responses to various occupational challenges throughout an SC. Information provided by HRV monitoring may support leadership decisions when evaluating personnel holistically. For example, the ability to continue occupational task execution even while experiencing potential overstress (as measured by HRV) and after food and sleep deprivation is desirable. HRV may potentially inform stakeholders regarding overstress in PTG candidates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1295-1303
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2024


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