Musculoskeletal effects of heavy backpacks in school children of 11-14 years of age

Mohan A. Patil, Sumana S, Nithin Shagale


Background/Objectives: High and increasing prevalence of back pain in children and adolescent is matter of concern. Prevalence varies regionally as it depends on many variables. Heavy backpack is one of the important underlying causes. Adolescent spine is in the critical stage of development in the age group of 11-14 years. This study was carried out to decide regional cutoffs of heavy relative weights of backpacks in male and female children. Methods: In a community based co-relational study 249 male and 251female children in the age group of 11-14 yrs using backpack from 6 schools of Kolhapur city, Maharashtra, India were studied. Musculoskeletal effects were noted as per Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire. Data was recorded in MS Excel worksheet and statistically analyzed using computer assisted statistical software SPSS Package Version-20. Results: Musculoskeletal problems due to heavy backpacks were found in 60.6% of children; 55.02% males and 66.53% females. Prevalence increased with increasing relative weight of backpack both in male and female children. With relative weight of backpack ≤ 11%, most children were asymptomatic. Relative weight of 12% to 13% showed statistically insignificant prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms.   With a relative weight of backpack ≥14% in males and ≥ 15% in females, prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms steeply increased. Conclusions: Relative weight of backpack ≤ 11% is safe to carry. As relative weight of backpack increases to ≥ 15%, majority of adolescent children in the age group of 11-14 years in this region are at risk of developing musculoskeletal adverse effects.

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