Are Soldiers Carrying Loads in Excess of 15 kg for Prolonged Periods at greater Risk of knee MSI than those with Less Exposure?

Research Paper Title

Tibiofemoral joint contact forces increase with load magnitude and walking speed but remain almost unchanged with different types of carried load.

Background

Musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) in the military reduce soldier capability and impose substantial costs.

Characterising biomechanical surrogates of MSI during commonly performed military tasks (e.g., load carriage) is necessary for evaluating the effectiveness of possible interventions to reduce MSI risk.

This study determined the effects of body-borne load distribution, load magnitude, and walking speed on tibiofemoral contact forces.

Methods

Twenty-one Australian Army Reserve soldiers completed a treadmill walking protocol in an unloaded condition and wearing four armour types (standard-issue and three prototypes) with two load configurations (15 and 30 kg) for a total of 8 armour x load ensembles.

In each ensemble, participants completed a 5-minute warm-up, and then walked for 10 minutes at both moderate (1.53 m⋅s-1) and fast (1.81 m⋅s-1) speeds.

During treadmill walking, three-dimensional kinematics, ground reaction forces, and muscle activity from nine lower-limb muscles were collected in the final minute of each speed.

These data were used as inputs into a neuromusculoskeletal model, which estimated medial, lateral and total tibiofemoral contact forces.

Results

Repeated measures analyses of variance revealed no differences for any variables between armour types, but peak medial compartment contact forces increased when progressing from moderate to fast walking and with increased load (p<0.001).

Acute exposure to load carriage increased estimated tibiofemoral contact forces 10.1 and 19.9% with 15 and 30kg of carried load, respectively, compared to unloaded walking.

Conclusions

These results suggest that soldiers carrying loads in excess of 15 kg for prolonged periods could be at greater risk of knee MSI than those with less exposure.

Reference

Lenton, G.K., Bishop, P.J., Saxby, D.J., Doyle, T.L.A., Pizzolato, C., Billing, D. & Lloyd, D.G. (2018) Tibiofemoral joint contact forces increase with load magnitude and walking speed but remain almost unchanged with different types of carried load. PLos One. 13(11):e0206859. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206859. eCollection 2018.

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