In the past few years, overloaded backpacks have attracted attention from doctors and researchers. A recent study released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that at least 14,000 children and adolescent patients, from five to 18 years old, are treated for backpack-related injuries every year, with the emergency room receiving more than 5,000 kids and adolescents experiencing severe pain.
An overweight backpack exceeds 15 percent of an individual’s overall weight. Related injuries include acute and chronic back pain, contusions, fractures and other accidents caused by carrying an overloaded backpack, such as tripping and falling.
“In the beginning it was kind of unbearable, but after carrying it around I gradually [got] used to it, though sometimes after PE it does feel like a burden,” freshman Jason Zhu, who owns a backpack that weighs 22 percent of his body weight, said. “For me, using a locker is not that efficient because it is a [bit] of a nuisance for me to get a book [in] the boisterous hallway. Having a [full] set of textbooks at home would be wonderful but that is an awful lot of expense.”
As stated by Education News, students constantly lean forward due to the stress of heavy backpacks, which can lead to a rounding of the upper back and can increase neck and shoulder pain, limiting the full function of the body’s muscles. Lower back pain or knee pain can be a result of change in an individual’s walking pattern from the pressure of the overweight backpack.
“Most elementary schools offer scoliosis checks and they let go [of] minor scolioses because those are not severe enough to be treated. But [this] type of minor scolioses [can affect teenagers] while students are still growing. [Their backpacks are] so heavy and compressing that […] the minor scoliosis can [be exacerbated],” school nurse Anita Man said.
However, as stated by the Huffington Post, injuries can be prevented. One tip is to always carry the backpack on both shoulders as the straps split the weight across the shoulders. A padded waist strap or abdominal strap and multiple compartments aid to help evenly distribute the weight. Additionally, heavier items should always be placed at the back of the bag, near the body.