"Back-packs that children
carry to school could face weight limits, under legislation being
considered in the United States.... There are worries that children
are risking a lifetime of back problems by carrying bags overfilled
with heavy books to school.... And a back care organisation in the
United Kingdom says that it shares this anxiety over excessive loads
in school bags and is 'sympathetic' to weight restrictions."
This is not an isolated problem.
Students from California to New Jersey are having problems, and officials
in the United Kingdom are realizing that this is a problem affecting
children and teens in their country, as well.
"Concerned that students
who lug heavy backpacks will develop spinal problems, lawmakers in
two states may go further than any others to try to reduce excess
pounds. New Jersey lawmakers are weighing a bill that proposes setting
maximum weight standards for textbooks, while a California measure
would require school districts to figure out ways to reduce the weight.
Other states have done studies of backpack weight and children's back
pain, but none have passed legislation requiring schools to do something
about it." http://www.cnn.com/2002/fyi/teachers.ednews/06/05/student.backpacks.ap/
More and more work is expected
from children at younger and younger ages. While students in elementary
school are bringing home their books so that they can do their homework
or study for a test, teens are carrying around their books throughout
the day due to increased security and decreased use of lockers.
The following excerpt from
a New Jersey School Board Association press-release helps to quantify
"TRENTON, August 1, 2002�When you hear todays schoolchildren
complain about homework being a pain, they may not be exaggerating.
Their aching backs and necks might be caused by the heavy loads in
their backpacks, according to doctors. The issue first gained attention
three years ago with an American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons report.
The Academy found that more than half of the physicians it surveyed
reported seeing students whose back and shoulder pain came from carrying
backpacks that were too heavy. The AAOS recommended that students
carry loads no greater than 15% of their body weight. Also that year,
the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that more than
3,400 pupils between ages 5 and 14 were treated in hospital emergency
rooms for injuries related to backpacks or book bags." http://www.njsba.org/press_releases/backpacks.htm
So, what does this mean?
When assigning homework, what do teachers need to consider? How do
teachers accommodate the different sizes of their students, while
still expecting all of their students to have the books and materials
they need to do their classwork and homework each day?
Fifteen percent seems a reasonable amount to carry, but fifteen percent
of the child who weighs sixty pounds may seem unrealistic with the
increasing academic standards placed on students, teachers, and schools.
The California Physical Therapy
Association states: "Improper backpack use can cause injury,
especially to children with young, growing muscles and joints. Injury
can occur when a child uses harmful postures such as arching the back,
leaning forward or, if only one strap is used, leaning
to one side. According to physical therapists, these postures can
cause spinal compression and/or improper alignment, and may hamper
the proper functioning of the disks between the vertebrae that provide
(This site includes advice by physical therapists for safe backpack
use and selection, while including warning signs that a backpack may
be causing a problem for an individual child.)
So we know there is a problem.
There has been for years. Students are carrying more and more. Even
in schools where lockers are not being removed, students are expected
to bring heavy loads home in order to complete their homework. Some
say electronic books are the answer, while others suggest thinner
textbooks or less homework.
Questions of the Week:
What can be done to help keep growing students safe and healthy while
still providing them with the information they need in a form that
they can transport? What can students, teachers, parents, and schools
do to resolve the problem? Where can the money come from to make the
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum