School & District Management

Lugging Heavy Backpacks Hurts Children, Study Says

By Michelle Galley — February 21, 2001 1 min read

School-age children are carrying more weight in their backpacks than their developing bodies can handle, according to a study presented last week at the American Physical Therapy Association’s national conference in San Antonio.

In interviews with 345 Massachusetts students in grades 5-8 last spring, researchers from Simmons College in Boston found that more than half the youngsters regularly carried backpack loads that were heavier than 15 percent of their body weight. That is the limit recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

The study found that roughly one-third of the students interviewed reported having a history of back pain. The average weight of a backpack in the Simmons study was 20 pounds. Preliminary results of the study were published in the winter edition of Pediatric Physical Therapy.

Multiple factors may cause back injuries, said Shelley Goodgold, an associate professor of physical therapy at Simmons College and the study’s lead researcher. “But we know that the minute you put on a backpack that is over that 15 percent limit,’' she added, "[students’] heads go forward, and it creates stress and increased forces on the neck and back.”

Further complicating that problem is the fact that many schoolchildren can’t tell when the loads they are lugging are too heavy, she said.

And the problem is likely to continue beyond 8th grade.

At the 1,350-student Avon Grove High School in West Grove, Pa., Patricia Benner, the school nurse, said she sees students complaining of back problems several times a week. “I think it often has to do with the weight [of the backpacks].”

Ms. Goodgold suggested certain steps to help prevent student back injuries. For example, she said, textbooks could be printed in paperback, instead of the much heavier hardcover versions. Schools might also consider providing two sets of books, one for students to keep at home and one for them to use at school, she said. She also suggested that administrators encourage students to use lockers instead of lugging their books around the school building all day.

Many students choose not to use lockers when available, Ms. Goodgold observed. In the study, she said, about “a third of the students who had lockers were still carrying books around with them all day.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 21, 2001 edition of Education Week as Lugging Heavy Backpacks Hurts Children, Study Says

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Student Well-Being Online Summit Student Mental Health
Attend this summit to learn what the data tells us about student mental health, what schools can do, and best practices to support students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Female Principals Are Paid Less Than Men. That’s a Big Concern
A gender pay gap in the principalship can affect recruitment and turnover.
5 min read
A conceptual image of gender pay gap.
hyejin kang/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Is the Assistant Principal the Most Overlooked, Undervalued Person at School?
A new research review on assistant principals finds that the role is undefined and that support for these school leaders is inconsistent.
7 min read
 teachers and leaders looking around for direction
Mykyta Dolmatov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Recovery Will Be Complex. We’ll Need the Best School Leaders
To face the education challenges of today and tomorrow, we must invest in the principal pipeline, writes Michael J. Petrilli.
Michael J. Petrilli
4 min read
Leader pointing hand forward, directing boat forward through corona virus crisis
iStock / Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images