Influences of backpack loading on recovery from anterior and posterior losses of balance: An exploratory investigation

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Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology; Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Backpacks are common devices for carrying external posterior loads. However, relatively little is known about how these external loads affect the ability to recover from balance loss. In this exploratory investigation, 16 young adults (8 female, 8 male) performed forward and backward lean-and-release balance recovery trials, while wearing a backpack that was unloaded or loaded (at 15% of individual body weight). We quantified the effects of backpack loading on balance recovery in terms of maximum recoverable lean angles, center-of-mass kinematics, and temporal-spatial stepping characteristics. Mean values of maximum lean angles were 20° and 9° in response to forward and backward perturbations, respectively. These angles significantly decreased when wearing the additional load for only backward losses of balance. During backward losses of balance, the additional load decreased peak center-of-mass velocity and increased acceleration by ∼10 and 18% respectively, which was accompanied by ∼5% faster stepping responses and steps that were ∼9% longer, 11% higher, and had an ∼10% earlier onset. Thus, wearing a backpack decreases backward balance recovery ability and changes backward recovery stepping characteristics.

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Applied Ergonomics