Sex and Stride Length Impact Leg Stiffness and Ground Reaction Forces When Running with Body Borne Load

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This study quantified leg stiffness and vGRF measures for males and females using different stride lengths to run with four body borne loads (20, 25, 30, and 35 kg). Thirty-six participants (20 males and 16 females) ran at 4.0 m/s using either: their preferred stride length (PSL), or strides 15% longer (LSL) and shorter (SSL) than PSL. Leg stiffness and vGRF measures, including peak vGRF, impact peak and loading rate, were submitted to a RM ANOVA to test the main effect and interactions of load, stride length,and sex. Leg stiffness was greater with the 30 kg (p = 0.016) and 35 kg (p < 0.001) compared to the 20 kg load, but decreased as stride lengthened from SSL to PSL (p < 0.001) and PSL to LSL (p< 0.001). Males exhibited greater leg stiffness than females with SSL (p = 0.029). Yet, males decreased leg stiffness with each increase in stride length (p < 0.001; p < 0.001), while females only decreased leg stiffness between PSL and LSL (p = 0.014). Peak vGRF was greater with the addition of body borne load (p < 0.001) and increase in stride length (p < 0.001). Both impact peak and loading rate were greater with the 30 kg (p = 0.034; p = 0.043) and 35 kg (p = 0.004; p = 0.015) compared to the 20 kg load, and increased as stride lengthened from SSL to PSL (p = 0.001; p = 0.004) and PSL to LSL (p < 0.001; p < 0.001). Running with body borne load may elevate injury risk by increasing leg stiffness and vGRFs. Injury risk may further increase when using longer strides to run with body borne load.