Soldiers carry heavy loads that may cause general discomfort, shoulder pain and injury. This study assessed if new body armour designs that incorporated a hip belt reduced shoulder pressures and improved comfort. Twenty-one Australian soldiers completed treadmill walking trials wearing six different body armours with two different loads (15 and 30 kg). Contact pressures applied to the shoulders were measured using pressure pads, and qualitative assessment of comfort and usability were acquired from questionnaires administered after walking trials. Walking with hip belt compared to no hip belt armour resulted in decreased mean and maximum shoulder pressures (p < 0.005), and 30% fewer participants experiencing shoulder discomfort (p < 0.005) in best designs, although hip discomfort did increase. Laterally concentrated shoulder pressures were associated with 1.34-times greater likelihood of discomfort (p = 0.026). Results indicate body armour and backpack designs should integrate a hip belt and distribute load closer to shoulder midline to reduce load carriage discomfort and, potentially, injury risk. Practitioner Summary: Soldiers carry heavy loads that increase their risk of discomfort and injury. New body armour designs are thought to ease this burden by transferring the load to the hips. This study demonstrated that designs incorporating a hip belt reduced shoulder pressure and shoulder discomfort compared to the current armour design.
- shoulder pressure
- load carriage