AMHERST, Mass. A team of kinesiology researchers led by Richard Van Emmerik at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently received a 2.5-year, $975,000 grant through the Navy Health Research Center in the Department of Defense to study how the average 100-lb. equipment load carried by soldiers, which can be even heavier in some missions, affects their survivability, likelihood of injury and ability to carry out missions.
"Load is not a new issue for field commanders to consider," says Van Emmerik, who is director of UMass Amherst's Sensory-Motor Control Laboratory. "But while past studies typically focused on how load affects gait and the lower body, we will for the first time look at how the upper body, trunk and head coordinate in a soldier who is burdened by a heavy load, which is a fundamentally different and a more complex situation."
Doctoral candidate Christopher Palmer, an Army employee who is an expert in motor control and military performance and a key member of Van Emmerik's team, adds, "To us, gait is just the beginning. We'll introduce a visual search task and track the coordination of upper body, postural control and visual acuity. No study has yet added all these, plus other factors, together in a realistic way to look at how load affects the soldier's ability to perceive threats, his or her operational effectiveness and survivability in combat."
Findings will also have practical significance for firefighters, police, rescue workers and others who must wear helmets, body armor, backpacks or other equipment while carrying out their duties.
The kinesiology research team, which includes doctoral students Mike Busa and Luis Rosado, with post-doctoral fellows Darnell Simon and Jongil Lim, will recruit highly trained infantrymen as laboratory subjects who will be tested with no load as well as while carrying a variety of loads between 70 and 120 lbs. for the studies.
Van Emmerik notes, "Biomechan
|Contact: Janet Lathrop|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst