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American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation:
Research Articles: Health and Safety

Percentage of Body Weight Carried by Students in Their School Backpacks

Forjuoh, Samuel N. MB, ChB, DrPH; Lane, Bryan L. DO; Schuchmann, John A. MD

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Abstract

Forjuoh SN, Lane BL, Schuchmann JA: Percentage of body weight carried by students in their school backpacks. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2003;82:261–266.

Objective: To determine the percentage of body weight represented by backpacks and the types of backpacks carried by elementary school students.

Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted in three elementary schools in central Texas. All students in kindergarten through fifth grade were invited to participate. A letter, with no direct mention of backpack weighing, was sent to each parent for written consent. Student weights and heights and their backpack weights were measured by trained research assistants.

Results: The mean backpack weights, which increased significantly with increasing grade level, varied significantly by school, backpack type, day of week, body mass index, and race/ethnicity. The backpack loads represented an average of 8.2% (95% confidence interval, 7.8–8.5) of student body weights but increased significantly with increasing grade level, from 6.2% among kindergarteners to 12.0% among fifth graders. Twenty-six percent of students carried backpacks that weighed at least 10% of their body weights. A total of 25 students (3.5%) had backpacks with wheels. Wheeled backpack users were significantly older and more likely to be girls or from school B. Concern about weight was the most popular reason cited for using a wheeled backpack.

Conclusions: Backpack loads represent a significant percentage of body weight of this sample of students aged 5–12 yr. Some students are already using wheeled backpacks, which may have their own hazards.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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