The effect of military load carriage on ground reaction forces

S.A. Birrell, R.H. Hooper, R.A. Haslam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)


Load carriage is an inevitable part of military life both during training and operations. Loads carried are frequently as high as 60% bodyweight, and this increases injury risk. In the military, load is carried in a backpack (also referred to as a Bergen) and webbing, these combined form a load carriage system (LCS). A substantial body of literature exists recording the physiological effects of load carriage; less is available regarding the biomechanics. Previous biomechanical studies have generally been restricted to loads of 20% and 40% of bodyweight, usually carried in the backpack alone. The effect of rifle carriage on gait has also received little or no attention in the published literature. This is despite military personnel almost always carrying a rifle during load carriage. In this study, 15 male participants completed 8 conditions: military boot, rifle, webbing 8 and 16 kg, backpack 16 kg and LCS 24, 32 and 40 kg. Results showed that load added in 8 kg increments elicited a proportional increase in vertical and anteroposterior ground reaction force (GRF) parameters. Rifle carriage significantly increased the impact peak and mediolateral impulse compared to the boot condition. These effects may be the result of changes to the vertical and horizontal position of the body's centre of mass, caused by the restriction of natural arm swing patterns. Increased GRFs, particularly in the vertical axis, have been positively linked to overuse injuries. Therefore, the biomechanical analysis of load carriage is important in aiding our understanding of injuries associated with military load carriage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-614
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number4
Early online date6 Mar 2007
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


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