Recommendations on backpack loading advice restricting the load to 10% of body weight and carrying the load high on the spine. The effects of increasing load (0%-5%-10%-15% of body weight) and changing the placement of the load on the spine, thoracic vs. lumbar placement, during standing and gait were analysed in 20 college-aged students by studying physiological, biomechanical and subjective data. Significant changes were: (1) increased thorax flexion; (2) reduced activity of M. erector spinae vs. increased activation of abdominals; (3) increased heart rate and Borg scores for the heaviest loads. A trend towards increased spinal flexion, reduced pelvic anteversion and rectus abdominis muscle activity was observed for the lumbar placement. The subjective scores indicate a preference for the lumbar placement. These findings suggest that carrying loads of 10% of body weight and above should be avoided, since these loads induce significant changes in electromyography, kinematics and subjective scores. Conclusions on the benefits of the thoracic placement for backpack loads could not be drawn based on the parameter set studied.
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