School & District Management

Lugging Heavy Backpacks Hurts Children, Study Says

By Michelle Galley — February 21, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft
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
Trauma-Informed Schools 101: Best Practices & Key Benefits
Learn how to develop a coordinated plan of action for addressing student trauma and
fostering supportive, healthy environments.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

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 Learn to Talk to Each Other Again: 4 Tips for Schools
Schools can play a vital role in helping all of us begin talking to each other again in more civil, meaningful ways.
3 min read
Three individuals connected by jigsaw puzzle speech bubbles over their heads.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Video Tools Don't Have to Distract. Five Tips Show School Leaders How to Harness Them
Newsletters and announcements don’t always do the trick. Principals can use videos to improve their relationships with students.
4 min read
Image of a woman recording herself.
fizkes/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Quick Hacks: How Schools Can Cut Costs and Help the Environment
Schools can take advantage of tax credits and grants offered in the climate change spending package Congress passed this year.
3 min read
Newly installed solar panels stretch out along the north side of Madison-Grant High School near Fairmount, Ind., on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017.
Newly installed solar panels stretch out along the north side of Madison-Grant High School near Fairmount, Ind., on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017.
Jeff Morehead/The Chronicle-Tribune via AP
School & District Management How This Principal Uses TikTok and YouTube to Build School Culture
A Louisiana principal has found that short videos reinforce what’s happening in the classrooms.
8 min read
Tight crop of hands typing on a laptop overlaid with a window that includes a video play button and red progress bar.
iStock/Getty Images Plus