Effects of body size and load carriage on lower-extremity biomechanical responses in healthy women

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2021 Feb 24;22(1):219. doi: 10.1186/s12891-021-04076-0.


Background: Musculoskeletal injuries, such as stress fractures, are the single most important medical impediment to military readiness in the U.S. Army. While multiple studies have established race- and sex-based risks associated with a stress fracture, the role of certain physical characteristics, such as body size, on stress-fracture risk is less conclusive.

Methods: In this study, we investigated the effects of body size and load carriage on lower-extremity joint mechanics, tibial strain, and tibial stress-fracture risk in women. Using individualized musculoskeletal-finite-element-models of 21 women of short, medium, and tall statures (n = 7 in each group), we computed the joint mechanics and tibial strains while running on a treadmill at 3.0 m/s without and with a load of 11.3 or 22.7 kg. We also estimated the stress-fracture risk using a probabilistic model of bone damage, repair, and adaptation.

Results: Under all load conditions, the peak plantarflexion moment for tall women was higher than those in short women (p < 0.05). However, regardless of the load condition, we did not observe differences in the strains and the stress-fracture risk between the stature groups. When compared to the no-load condition, a 22.7-kg load increased the peak hip extension and flexion moments for all stature groups (p < 0.05). However, when compared to the no-load condition, the 22.7-kg load increased the strains and the stress-fracture risk in short and medium women (p < 0.05), but not in tall women.

Conclusion: These results show that women of different statures adjust their gait mechanisms differently when running with external load. This study can educate the development of new strategies to help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in women while running with external load.

Keywords: Joint kinematics and kinetics; Motion-capture data; Musculoskeletal finite-element analysis; Stress-fracture risk; Tibial strains.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Size
  • Female
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity*
  • Weight-Bearing