Load Carriage Impacts on the Human Body
January 3, 2014
The warfare of today is much different than it was centuries and even decades ago. During the Civil War, Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest had one simple tactical approach: "Get there first with the most men."1 Over the years that simple notion has transformed due to the advancements in technology and nuclear weapons.1 Today, soldiers have a lot of advanced equipment at their disposal, and have to carry most of it on their own backs. The typical United States soldier has a load that averages more than 100 pounds, which includes items from boots to ammunition, and body armor to night vision goggles.2 The soldiers of today's modern warfare have the tactical advantage over prior soldiers with new technology; but are they as efficient as they can possibly be? How mobile are they when they carry all this gear around? What bio-mechanical and physiological effects does a large load have on the body? How long can they carry a full set of gear at a high intensity? A various amount of studies have set out to answer these tough questions that face the young soldiers of the United States.
Load carriage affects the body in a number of different ways. Past and present research all point to the following mechanisms and impacts due to load carriage on the human body:
Effects on kinematics of gait
Physiological, biomechanical and medical aspects
Weight magnitude and distribution on walking patterns and comfort perceptions
Metabolic cost of backpack and shoulder carriage
Load position on physiological and perceptual responses
Energy cost and mechanical work of walking
Performance of explosive anaerobic military tasks
An unavoidable and common activity of a soldier's day is manual...