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Salivary Measures of Stress and Immunity in Police Officers Engaged in Simulated Critical Incident Scenarios

Groer, Maureen PhD; Murphy, Randall MSM; Bunnell, William MBA; Salomon, Kristin PhD; Van Eepoel, Jeanne BS; Rankin, Blake; White, Kristi BS; Bykowski, Cathy BS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2010 - Volume 52 - Issue 6 - p 595-602
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181e129da
Original Articles

Objective: This research investigated the effects of a critical incident lethal force scenario on a panel of salivary biomarkers, measured at baseline and then at 10 and 30 minutes postscenario, in 141 law enforcement volunteer officers.

Methods: Officers were randomly assigned to two virtual reality scenarios. One scenario was brief and involved a police officer chasing a suspect on a motorcycle, confronting the suspect who draws a gun and shoots the police officer. The other scenario involved a lengthy chase by the police officer through a workplace of an armed perpetrator ultimately engaging in gunfire with the police officer. Saliva was analyzed for cortisol, secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), interleukin-6, and alpha-amylase concentrations.

Results: The “workplace” scenario produced the largest responses in biomarkers, with significant rises in cortisol, interleukin-6, alpha-amylase, and secretory immunoglobulin A. These data suggest that virtual reality can produce stress and immune effects.

Conclusions: This research suggests that virtual reality scenarios produce physiologic stress responses, mimicking occupational stress.

From the College of Nursing (Dr Groer, Ms Van Eepoel, Mr Rankin) University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla; Department of Psychology (Dr Salomon, Ms White, Ms Bykowski), University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla; and Meggitt's Training Systems, Inc (Mr Murphy, Mr Bunnell), Atlanta, Ga.

Maureen Groer, Randall Murphy, William Bunnell, Kristen Salomon, Jeanne Van Eeopel, Blake Rankin, and Kristi White received support for this research from Meggitt's Training Systems, Inc.

The JOEM Editorial Board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Address correspondence to: Maureen Groer, RN, PhD, FAAN, College of Nursing, University of South Florida, 12910 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33612; E-mail:

©2010The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine