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Effects of military load carriage on kinematics of gait

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Manual load carriage is a universal activity and an inevitable part of the daily schedule of a soldier. Indian Infantry soldiers carry loads on the waist, back, shoulders and in the hands for a marching order. There is no reported study on the effects of load on gait in this population. It is important to evaluate their kinematic responses to existing load carriage operations and to provide guidelines towards the future design of heavy military backpacks (BPs) for optimising soldiers' performance. Kinematic changes of gait parameters in healthy male infantry soldiers whilst carrying no load (NL) and military loads of 4.2-17.5 kg (6.5-27.2% body weight) were investigated. All comparisons were conducted at a self-selected speed. Soldier characteristics were: mean (SD) age 23.3 (2.6) years; height 172.0 (3.8) cm; weight 64.3 (7.4) kg. Walk trials were collected using a 3-D Motion Analysis System. Results were subjected to one-way ANOVA followed by Dunnett post hoc test. There were increases in step length, stride length, cadence and midstance with the addition of a load compared to NL. These findings were resultant of an adaptive phenomenon within the individual to counterbalance load effect along with changes in speed. Ankle and hip ranges of motion (ROM) were significant. The ankle was more dorsiflexed, the knee and hip were more flexed during foot strike and helped in absorption of the load. The trunk showed more forward leaning with the addition of a load to adjust the centre of mass of the body and BP system back to the NL condition. Significant increases in ankle and hip ROM and trunk forward inclination (≥10°) with lighter loads, such as a BP (10.7 kg), BP with rifle (14.9 kg) and BP with a light machine gun (17.5 kg), may cause joint injuries. It is concluded that the existing BP needs design improvisation specifically for use in low intensity conflict environments. Statement of Relevance:The present study evaluates spatial, temporal and angular changes at trunk and limb joints during military load carriage of relatively lighter magnitude. Studies on similar aspects on the specific population are limited. These data can be used for optimising load carriage and designing ensembles, especially a heavy BP, for military operations.
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Keywords: ROM; angular displacement; kinematics; load carriage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, Defence Research & Development Organisation, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, Lucknow Road, Delhi, India

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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