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In Medieval Europe, soldiers wore steel plate armour for protection during warfare. Armour design reflected a trade-off between protection and mobility it offered the wearer. By the fifteenth century, a typical suit of field armour weighed between 30 and 50 kg and was distributed over the entire body. How much wearing armour affected Medieval soldiers' locomotor energetics and biomechanics is unknown. We investigated the mechanics and the energetic cost of locomotion in armour, and determined the effects on physical performance. We found that the net cost of locomotion (C(met)) during armoured walking and running is much more energetically expensive than unloaded locomotion. C(met) for locomotion in armour was 2.1-2.3 times higher for walking, and 1.9 times higher for running when compared with C(met) for unloaded locomotion at the same speed. An important component of the increased energy use results from the extra force that must be generated to support the additional mass. However, the energetic cost of locomotion in armour was also much higher than equivalent trunk loading. This additional cost is mostly explained by the increased energy required to swing the limbs and impaired breathing. Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers' physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles.

Original publication

DOI

10.1098/rspb.2011.0816

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Biol Sci

Publication Date

22/02/2012

Volume

279

Pages

640 - 644

Keywords

Biomechanical Phenomena, History, Medieval, Humans, Locomotion, Male, Military Personnel, Protective Clothing, Weight-Bearing