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The effect of the gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit upon movement and strength

Carvil, PA and Attias, J and Evetts, SN and Waldie, JM and Green, DA (2017) The effect of the gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit upon movement and strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31 (1). pp. 154-161. ISSN 1064-8011

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Abstract

© 2016 National Strength and Conditioning Association. Effective countermeasures against musculoskeletal deconditioning induced by microgravity and disuse are required. A simple alternative to provision of artificial gravity by centrifugation is compressive axial loading. The Russian "Pingvin" suit was the first wearable suit to apply this concept using bungee cords tethered around the shoulders and feet. However, poor loading characteristics and severe thermal and movement discomfort were reported. The gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit (GLCS) uses a bidirectional weave to generate staged axial loading from shoulders to feet, better mimicking how Earth's gravity induces progressive loading head to foot. The Mk III GLCS's loading was evaluated and tolerability assessed during maximal joint motion, ambulation, and selected strength exercises. Eight subjects (5 male and 3 female; 28 ± 3 years; 179 ± 0.1 cm and 74.8 ± 2.9 kg), having given written informed consent, had an Mk III GLCS individually tailored. Axial loading imparted, body height, joint range of motion (ROM), ambulation, and strength tests (12 repetition maximum) were performed in the GLCS and gym attire, with subjective (rating of perceived exertion, thermal comfort, movement discomfort and body control) ratings recorded throughout. Gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit provided significant axial loading when standing but significantly reduced knee (-13°), spinal (-28°) and shoulder flexion/extension ROM (-34°/-13°), in addition to Sit and Reach (-12.8 cm). No thermal issues were reported but there was an increase in subjective discomfort. Gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit did not significantly impede strength exercise, with the exception of shoulder press. The GLCS (Mk III) demonstrates potential as a countermeasure by providing tolerable, static axial loading. Furthermore, it may serve as an elasticlike strength exercise adjunct, which may have utility as a rehabilitation modality after further design refinement.

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