The effect of load distribution within military load carriage systems on the kinetics of human gait

Article English OPEN
Birrell, Stewart A. ; Haslam, Roger (2010)

Military personnel carry their equipment in load carriage systems (LCS) which consists of webbing and a Bergen (aka backpack). In scientific terms it is most efficient to carry load as close to the body's centre of mass (CoM) as possible, this has been shown extensively with physiological studies. However, less is known regarding the kinetic effects of load distribution. Twelve experienced load carriers carried four different loads (8, 16, 24 and 32 kg) in three LCS (backpack, standard and AirMesh). The three LCS represented a gradual shift to a more even load distribution around the CoM. Results from the study suggest that shifting the CoM posteriorly by carrying load solely in a backpack significantly reduced the force produced at toe-off, whilst also decreasing stance time at the heavier loads. Conversely, distributing load evenly on the trunk significantly decreased the maximum braking force by 10%. No other interactions between LCS and kinetic parameters were observed. Despite this important findings were established, in particular the effect of heavy load carriage on maximum braking force. Although the total load carried is the major cause of changes to gait patterns, the scientific testing of, and development of, future LCS can modify these risks.
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