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Impact of ballistic body armour and load carriage on walking patterns and perceived comfort

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This study investigated the impact of weight magnitude and distribution of body armour and carrying loads on military personnel's walking patterns and comfort perceptions. Spatio-temporal parameters of walking, plantar pressure and contact area were measured while seven healthy male right-handed military students wore seven different garments of varying weight (0.06, 9, 18 and 27 kg) and load distribution (balanced and unbalanced, on the front and back torso). Higher weight increased the foot contact time with the floor. In particular, weight placement on the non-dominant side of the front torso resulted in the greatest stance phase and double support. Increased plantar pressure and contact area observed during heavier loads entail increased impact forces, which can cause overuse injuries and foot blisters. Participants reported increasingly disagreeable pressure and strain in the shoulder, neck and lower back during heavier weight conditions and unnatural walking while wearing unbalanced weight distributed loads. This study shows the potentially synergistic impact of wearing body armour vest with differential loads on body movement and comfort perception.

Practitioner Summary: This study found that soldiers should balance loads, avoiding load placement on the non-dominant side front torso, thus minimising mobility restriction and potential injury risk. Implications for armour vest design modifications can also be found in the results.
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Keywords: biomechanics; body armour; gait; load carriage; mobility

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA 2: Department of Design, Housing, and Merchandising, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA 3: Department of Health and Human Performance, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA 4: Department of Applied Health and Education Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA 5: Department of Statistics, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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