The effects of a suspended-load backpack on gait
A suspended-load backpack is a device that is designed to capture the mechanical energy created as a suspended backpack load oscillates vertically on the back during gait. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the effect of a suspended-load backpack system on selected temporal and kinetics parameters describing gait. Nine male participants carried a suspended-load backpack as they walked on an instrumented treadmill with varied levels of load (no backpack, 22.5 kg, and 29.3 kg) and walking speed (1.16 m/s, 1.43 m/s, 1.70 m/s). As the participants performed this treadmill task, ground reaction forces were collected from an instrumented treadmill system. From these data, temporal variables (cycle time, single support time, and double support time) and kinetic variables (normalized weight acceptance force, normalized push-off force, and normalized mid-stance force) were derived. The results showed that the response of the temporal variables were consistent with previous studies of conventional (i.e. stable load) backpacks. The response of the normalized push-off force, however, showed that increasing walking speed significantly (p < 0.05) decreased the magnitude of this force, a result contrary to the literature concerning conventional backpacks where this force has been shown to significantly increase. Further evaluation revealed that this reduction in force was the result of a phase shift between the movement of the carried load and the movement of the torso. This suggests that the motion of the load in a suspended-load backpack influences the gait biomechanics and should be considered as this technology advances.