Load carriage: minimising soldier injuries through physical conditioning - a narrative review
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Background: With soldiers carrying increasing loads, physical conditioning may provide one means of reducing injuries and increasing the ability to train, maintain and retain soldiers.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to review the current literature on physical conditioning for load carriage and present the findings in a manner that will allow physical conditioning practitioners a means of applying them in a conditioning program.
Methods: Using key search terms, a literature search of academic databases (both civilian and military) was conducted, with additional relevant literature sought from military and civilian colleagues. Gathered papers were assessed against several key criteria and limited to those relating specifically to physical conditioning and military load carriage. These papers were reviewed to glean key findings in the light of information from additional sources that were employed to contextualise the findings.
Results: The search results yielded seven original research papers, one conference paper and four secondary source papers (military reports, journal articles).
Conclusions: Research suggests that, while other forms of conditioning may be of a supplemental benefit, an effective load carriage conditioning program will include specific load carriage training conducted between two and four times per month. Loads must be sufficient to elicit a physiological response proportionate to that recommended for cardiovascular and metabolic fitness development, with the duration and distance gradually progressed to levels that meet training and operational needs. While higher intensity training may be of particular value, excessive training volume may increase the risk of both acute and overuse injury risks.