From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Heavy School Bags Linked to Back Problems: Three Students Lobbying for Relief

Most children are required to tote heavy school bags to and from school each day, and the load increases as they reach higher grades. Sports clothing and equipment often adds another bag to their load. One recent study found that the daily burden can lead to lower back pain, poor posture, spinal deformity over time and back problems in adulthood. This weighty problem isn’t unique to South Africa, and in Scotland, three students are fighting for relief.

An investigation by the department of occupational therapy at the University of the Free State compared postural deviation in children who carry heavy school bags against those who don’t. The study was reported in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper. The children in the study (380 in total) spent an average of 30 minutes per day carrying their bags. On average a pre-teen school bag weighed 13.1 pounds and a teenager’s bag weighed 14.3 pounds.

The study indicated deviation to the side and/or backwards of children’s spines when carrying heavy school bags. Over time the deviation becomes evident even when the child is not carrying the bag, according to the researchers. The teenage schoolchildren had a higher level of spinal deviation than the pre-teen children, indicating that the deviations are lasting. A child’s spine is still developing during the school years, and carrying the occasional heavy object will not result in any permanent damage. The researchers point out that children carry their school bags on a daily basis and often between classes as well, and it is the constant additional pressure to the spine that can cause long-term damage. They say the further a child has to walk to school, the more affected he or she is.

The Scotsman newspaper reported on three pupils in the Scottish school system who have decided to fight their burden. Seventeen-year-old Colin Kerr totes 40 pounds