Kids bodies and injuries are usually a bit different to adult injuries and issues as they are still developing and less rigid than adults. It’s why you can see kids run around, fall down and get back up running as if they have just bounced off the ground. That said, despite their resilience, carrying heavy bags can potentially result in injuries and issues.
Physiotherapists from time to time see shoulder injuries in kids from continually lifting and taking heavy bags on and off as their muscle strength is still developing and kids can struggle with the heavy loads. The other common injuries are neck and back pain and injuries especially if they have to carry the heavy bags for prolonged periods. The other issue to be aware of is setting kids into a forward head posture while they are growing as this can be a disadvantage for life.
How heavy is too heavy for a student’s school bag?
Obviously, this depends on factors like age, weight, height etc. of the students and this differs between people, but really the lighter the better. The Golden rule is, if they need help to put the back on, it’s too heavy. Also, if you note the weight of the back pack encouraging them to bend forward at the hips or low back then it is likely to be too heavy as they are compensating their posture to accommodate it.
A good guide is if they can stand upright in a good posture and not feel any strain when walking etc. this is a good sign. Having seen some very heavy bags with school kids, especially teenagers with large text books, I think anything more than 10-15% their body weight is starting to be too heavy.
What are the long term effects of carrying a heavy school bag?
The main long term effects of carrying a heavy school bag are usually postural effects and changes. To compensate for a heavy school back most kids will pull the straps forward holding them which create rounding in the shoulders which can create a hunch over in the mid back. In addition with heavy bags this will usually result in bending the hips and low back forward to counteract the pull of the heavy bag backwards which places unnecessary stress and strain on the low back and hips. All of this can impact long term postures resulting in increased hunching postures and shortening of the hip flexor muscles. Not a good start for a growing body.
Why is it important for schools to become paperless (I.e. With online textbooks and resources)?
Among the additional environmental benefit of schools becoming paperless, moving away from heavy textbooks and the need to transport these in heavy bags between classes and classrooms will certainly help reduce the stress and strain on kid’s backs, neck, shoulders and hips.
But laptops and ipads can also add significant weight too. Ensure these are packed in the part of the bag closest to the spine to reduce the lever effect on the body.
So what tips do you have?
- Reduce the weight in the bag as much as practical to do so
- Ensure heavier items are packed in the section of the bag closest to the spine
- Ensure the bag is well designed, feels comfortable and is a good fit for the student
- Ensure the student wears BOTH straps and fits them snugly around their shoulders to get the best support
The last point here is often the clincher – being ergonomically correct is not always the “coolest” look. Gently remind your students that a hunched posture is not a cool look either – especially for teenagers!
Have a healthy and productive day,
- Allens Operations Pty Ltd (Aust) – Australia wide (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane & Perth) - September 24, 2018
- Early childhood intervention Australia - August 4, 2018
- Australian Physiotherapy Association National office, Victoria - August 2, 2018