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Health hazards of carrying heavy school bag 

Dr Sampurna Roy MD





Carrying heavy schoolbag is a daily activity for most children.

Extensive research has been carried out  to identify a safe load limit for children to carry in their schoolbags.

Several scientific papers have drawn attention to the role of the weight of the school backpack in children, particularly when its weight exceeds 20% of the child's body weight.

Children carrying  heavy school bag (greater than 10–15% of their body weight) can cause spinal deformities and asymmetrical gait patterns. 

Backpacks can injury the head or face, as well as the hands, the elbow, the wrist, the shoulder, the foot and the ankle. Back trauma is observed as the sixth most common injury. The 'weak point' is the shoulder and not the back.

Excessive backpack load causes back pain and spinal deformities like shallowing of the lumbar lordosis and a tendency towards a vertical position of the sacrum.

" Note: According to study of Cottalorda J et al, it was proved that adolescents who suffer from back pain will probably have chronic back pain as adults, but there was no evidence that there was development of spinal deviation due to weight of the backpack. [Backpack and spinal disease: myth or reality?]. "

The pain associated with carrying a backpack is referred to as "backpack syndrome". This syndrome includes the following factors: abnormal body posture causing headaches, fatigue, and cervical and lumbar pain.

According to many authors  the weight of a school backpack should not exceed 10% of the child’s body weight. 

When the weight exceeds 10–15% of the body weight, it forces the child to compensate for the excessive load by tilting the trunk forward. 

This may lead to a reduction in the natural curvature of the lumbar spine and related adverse consequences.

Asymmetric loading of intervertebral discs,  can lead to overloading and degenerative changes in the spine. 

Parents, teachers and children themselves should regularly monitor the weight of the school bag. 

Strict measures should be taken to reduce the daily burden on the spine of the child.



 Further reading:

Influence of the Weight of a School Backpack on Spinal Curvature in the Sagittal Plane of Seven-Year-Old Children

- Awareness of Parents about Characteristics of a Healthy School Backpack

- Effect of asymmetrical backpack load on spinal curvature in school children.

- The effects of backpack loads and spinal stabilization exercises on the dynamic foot pressure of elementary school children with idiopathic scoliosis




Dr Sampurna Roy  MD

Consultant  Histopathologist (Kolkata - India)






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