Authors: William J. Lewinski, Jennifer L. Dysterheft, Nathan D. Dicks, Robert W. Pettitt
As advances in protective equipment are made, it has been observed that the weight law enforcement officers must carry every day is greatly increasing. Many investigations have noted the health risks of these increases, yet none have looked at its effects on officer mobility. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the influence of both the weight of officer safety equipment, as well as a lateral focal point (FP), on the stride length, stride velocity, and acceleration of the first six strides of a short sprint. Twenty male law enforcement students performed two maximal effort sprint trials, in the participating college’s gymnasium, from each of four starting positions: forwards (control position), backwards, 90° left, and 90° right. Subjects placed in the FP group (n = 9) were required to maintain focus on lateral FP during the 90° left and 90° right trials, and a forwards FP during the backwards trials. On a second testing date, subjects repeated the sprint tests while wearing a 9.07 kg weight belt, simulating officer equipment and protective gear. The belt averaged 11.47 ± 1.64% of subject body mass. A significant main effect of weight belt trials was found (F = 20.494, p < 0.01), in which significant decreases were found for velocity and acceleration. No other significant effects were found as a result of starting position or focal point and no significant interactions were found between independent variables. Conclusively, the results of this study show the increasing weights of duty gear and protective equipment have detrimental effects on officer velocity and acceleration, impeding their mobility, which may be dangerous in use of force or threatening situations.