Posture and Helmet Load Influences on Neck Muscle Activation.

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Aerosp Med Hum Perform


INTRODUCTION: Night vision goggles (NVG) are linked to increased neck muscle activation and pain. Counterweights (NVGcw) are hypothesized to mitigate these effects. The purpose of this study was to investigate the muscular response to varying helmet loads and postures.

METHODS: Volunteering from a representative squadron were 16 male helicopter aviators (pilots, N = 9; flight engineers, N = 7). Subjects performed head movements to assume nine different postures (three directions: left, center, and right, at three different levels: down, level, and up) with four different head loads (no helmet; helmet only; NVG; and NVGcw) in randomized order. Subjects were provided real time visual guidance and feedback while assuming the appropriate posture in a cockpit seat in a laboratory setting. Neck muscle activation was assessed with electromyography (EMG) of four different muscle groups, bilaterally, including the sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitis, and mid and lower trapezius.

RESULTS: Two- to fourfold increases in muscle activation were observed in postures to the left (down, level, and up) while subjects wore either the NVG or NVGcw as compared to the baseline of no helmet. This was most prevalent in smaller muscle groups (i.e., the sternocleidomastoid and splenius capitis) as compared to larger muscle groups (i.e., the mid and lower trapezius).

DISCUSSION: The use of NVGcw did not decrease neck muscle activity as compared to NVG only, particularly when the head posture moved the field of view below the horizon. This suggests interventions to decrease neck muscle activity and fatigue in military helicopter aircrew using NVG should focus on task specific guidelines with respect to countermeasures.

Medical Subject Headings

Adult; Aircraft; Electromyography; Head Protective Devices; Humans; Male; Neck Muscles; Posture

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