Back-breaking studies breaking student’s backs, packs
By Joe Black | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Without violating all sorts of federal and state laws about privacy and all that (if you know what HIPPA means, then you know what I’m talking about), let me tell you today that I am currently treating four high school-age teenagers for neck and back problems that I believe are due to the heavy backpacks that they have to carry at school every day.
Four patients in physical therapy at one time by one physical therapist. And there are a lot more physical therapists around here than just me. Figure that in and over the course of the year, the number of kids hurting from backpacks becomes staggering.
I’ve written about this topic before and goodness knows I’ve preached that sermon anytime anyone would listen but something has got to be done.
Just last week, I picked up the backpack of one of my student athletic trainers just to move it out of the way. I thought I had dislocated my shoulder as I lifted it up.
My goodness, I once backpacked the length of the Appalachian Trail that lies within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — from Fontana to Davenport Gap — with a backpack that weighed less than the one this 15-year-old girl was carrying.
I think a lot of it is the backpack itself. They just aren’t made for these kinds of weight. For the same weight, I would want a trekking pack with a padded hip belt, an internal frame, and much better shoulder straps. In other words, a backpack made for carrying heavy loads. But that’s only part of the problem.
The posture that they have to assume to carry this load is awful. No wonder they hurt.
You see them walk by and they are all hunched forward, with their shoulders rolled in tugging on the straps, bent forward at the waist as though they were facing a mighty wind, with their head straining forward to help balance the load.
It is positively obscene.
And here’s what most people don’t understand: they do this every day. Sometimes it is between classes. More than once, I’ve heard the complaint from one of these teens that they have to carry ALL of their books ALL day, since their locker is too far away for them to visit it between classes.
So what happens? They end up with neck and back problems and in physical therapy for treatment and rehabilitation. And goodness knows what is in store for them as they get older.
Better backpacks would help. I’ve tried making the suggestion that they switch to one of those cases that roll along behind you, pulled by a handle (like you would see in an airport). No way! That would most definitely not be cool.
I understand budget constraints and the constant pressure on our schools to do more with less but in the computer age is there not an electronic option? I got another degree in 2008 where I didn’t have a single textbook, where most of the work was done on my laptop from any place I could get online.
I don’t have all the answers but I’m pretty sure I’ve got a handle on what the problem is.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)