Effect of Load Carriage on Tactical Performance in Special Weapons and Tactics Operators

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Abstract

Thomas, JM, Pohl, MB, Shapiro, R, Keeler, J, and Abel, MG. Effect of load carriage on tactical performance in special weapons and tactics operators. J Strength Cond Res 32(2): 554–564, 2018—Special weapons and tactics (SWAT) operators are specially trained personnel that are required to carry equipment to perform high-risk tasks. Given the need to carry this equipment, it is important to understand the potentially deleterious effect that the additional load may have on tactical performance. Furthermore, it is important to identify physical fitness characteristics that are associated with the potential decrement in performance. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of load carriage on tactical physical ability and marksmanship and to identify fitness characteristics associated with any decrement in performance. Twelve male SWAT operators were timed while performing a simulated tactical test (STT) on a live firing range with (loaded condition) and without equipment (unloaded condition). A battery of physical fitness assessments were used to assess anaerobic and aerobic power, muscular endurance, strength, agility, and flexibility. Paired-samples t-tests were used to identify differences between STT conditions, and bivariate correlations were used to determine relationships between STT and fitness outcomes. Time to complete the STT in the loaded condition increased by 7.8% compared with the unloaded condition (p < 0.001). Nine of the 13 STT tasks were performed significantly slower in the loaded condition. Fatigue index (r = 0.64) and V[Combining Dot Above]O2peak (r = −0.62) were associated with the decrement in the overall STT time. Marksmanship was not different between load carriage conditions (p = 0.816). These findings indicate that resistance to anaerobic fatigue and aerobic power are related to the decrement in tactical performance produced by load carriage.

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