The Bigger the Backpack

Jack Goulet, Reporter

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A long walk to school with all of his textbooks. This high school student’s daily exercise puts a lot of unnecessary weight on his shoulders.

Drayer Physical Therapy discusses the good and bad aspects of carrying a bag every day, and if it’s possible to cut-down on the bad while still using the bag for its intended purpose.

Backpacks are on shoulders before school, in between classes, and after school. These hours add-up, according to the US Product Safety Commission. They say that at least 14,000 students suffer backpack-related injuries every year.

Photo courtesy of Nike

The pain can occur in the neck, shoulders, or back. So, what can be done to prevent it?

The first thing to be addressed is the backpack itself. Brands like Nike offer bags with padded straps for increased shoulder comfort. An option that takes all backpack pain away is the wheeled backpack. However, to save themselves from embarrassment and not break school rules (tripping over wheels), that’s pretty much out of the equation for students.

It’s also what the student puts in it. According to a Huffington Post article, the average kid’s backpack should weigh less than 10 to 15 percent of their bodyweight. If a kid is carrying around a heavy bag, it’s going to put stress on these areas of their body.

Even with this advice, it may be hard to keep a backpack weight low, with that same Huffington Post article saying that textbooks average a weight of three and a half pounds each. Students needing to bring every textbook home every night may get used to this weight, but there are other options.

One simple solution students can utilize while in school is lockers (the tool whose entire purpose is to hold books).

Some schools don’t give their kids a place to store heavy books, but why do some HHS students still avoid their lockers and face the pains of backpacks?

One reason is the locker location. With lockers in the upstairs and downstairs of the D, E, G, and F wings, a student may never come close to their locker while commuting to class. If they do decide to take extra time to drop off some weight, it could cost them when they arrive late to their next class.

A non-late to class option would be buying folders instead of binders, or having shared binders for classes. In essence, cutting back to the bare minimum a student needs to not be missing papers, all the while dropping unnecessary weight.

Another option that reduces weight and maintains a clean and orderly backpack is to just clean it out regularly. Papers from the beginning of the school year add lots of weight to the bottom of a backpack in early February.

Drayer Physical Therapy advises choosing a bag with wide and padded straps. In addition, the proposed bag should not rest more than 4 inches below the student’s waistline and should be inspected regularly, making sure that heavy items stay closer to the torso.

If a student is still in pain, Drayer recommends rest or reduced activity to alleviate any back problems caused by the backpack.

Drayer says that back pain and poor posture go hand-in-hand, with bad posture leading to back problems in the future.

There isn’t one definite preventative measure to curb backpack pains, but the little steps go a long way. As much as a high schooler would rather not use a backpack’s chest or waist strap, they do take a lot of pressure off of the back and shoulders.

If students can use these tips, they can manage any pain they may be having as a result of their backpack. That way they can focus less on the backpack and more on their learning in the classroom.