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Are Children’s Backpack Weight Limits Enough?: A Critical Review of the Relevant Literature

Brackley, Heather M., MSc; Stevenson, Joan M., PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000141183.20124.a9
Literature Review
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Study Design. Literature review.

Objective. To examine the epidemiologic, physiologic, and biomechanical literature that has contributed to the suggested weight limit of 10 to 15% body weight for children’s backpacks.

Summary of Background Data. The majority of children use a backpack to transport their belongings to and from school on a daily basis; however, controversy exists over the safety of backpack use and backpack loads.

Methods. A thorough review of the literature was completed to examine the appropriateness of the suggested weight limits and to determine future areas of research needed to increase the safety of children’s backpacks.

Results. Epidemiologic, physiologic, and biomechanical data support the suggested weight limit of 10% to 15% body weight.

Conclusions. Based on the current literature, the value of 10% to 15% body weight is a justified weight limit; however, further research is required to determine the association between backpack use and injury and how the factors of load, backpack design, and personal characteristics, such as physical fitness, interact and influence the adaptations required when carrying a backpack.

Weight limits have been recommended by various health organizations to make backpack use safer. This paper examines the epidemiologic, physiologic, and biomechanical literature contributing to these recommendations and examines other requirements to increase the safety of these devices.

From the Physical Education Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Acknowledgment date: July 25, 2003. First revision date: October 1, 2003. Acceptance date: October 20, 2003.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Joan Stevenson, Physical Education Centre, Queen’s University, Rm 148, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3N6; E-mail: stevenj@post.queensu.ca

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.