Backpack weights worsen medical issues, burden unnecessary

Lauren Lashley, staff reporter

The halls of South are alive with students weaving their way to their next class or stopping to chat with their friends. On their backs rest backpacks of all colors: black, blue, purple, white, red, grey. While the colors may be the same, the weight of each backpack is widely different, and each pack carries an assortment of heavy items including chromebooks, textbooks, binders, notebooks, books, lunches and chargers, all according to a non-scientific Oracle-conducted survey composed of 290 students.

Incoming sophomore Sandra Yufa carries a backpack like every other student, but she has scoliosis. Scoliosis is a medical back condition where the spine is curved irregularly, causing pain, according to Yufa. The frequent carrying of her heavy backpack, Yufa feels, increases that pain.

“Now that I have hit puberty, my scoliosis didn’t really get that much worse,” Yufa said. “Having a backpack on for almost seven hours [a day] definitely makes it a little [more painful]. When I go to bed, my back always hurts because of the continuous strain.”

Yufa said that her backpack alone weighs about 15 to 20 pounds, and a good portion of the student body agrees with her. According to the same Oracle-conducted survey, 45.52% of students think their backpacks weigh between 15 and 25 pounds, and 5.52% of students think their backpacks weigh 35 pounds or more.

Incoming sophomore Ana Choe believes that some backpacks are incredibly heavy due to the classes a student takes. Their papers and packets tend to pile up overtime, increasing the weight of each backpack.

“[My backpack] is not that heavy, but some people that are in higher classes have backpacks that are really heavy,” Choe said. “They have a bunch of stuff they’re not supposed to throw away either, so it’s just piling up in their backpack.”

Nurse Julie Haenisch also agrees that backpacks are too heavy for students’ everyday use. Backpacks could potentially cause harm over time if the conditions are right, she claimed.

“[Wearing backpacks that are overweight for a long period of time] might add or contribute to back pain or back strain,” Haenisch said. “It depends on a student’s overall stature, health, muscle strength and what the weight of their actual backpack is.”

One way a student could help lighten their backpack would be to use their lockers more often, Haenisch suggested, though many students do not. Approximately 82.58% of students never use their lockers, according to an Oracle-conducted survey of 287 students, and only 2.79% of students reported to be using their lockers on a daily basis.

In the survey, a few students even noted that they didn’t know where their locker was. According to Choe, she barely uses her locker. The last time she remembered using it was as the very beginning of the school year.

“I don’t know where my locker is,” Choe said. “I only know one person who puts some of their stuff in their locker because their locker is really far away from where they are and really hard to find.”

Haenisch says that students who do not use their locker are choosing not to, but deciding to use their lockers more often could reduce the amount of pain caused by backpacks.

“There [could be] a shift and students start using their lockers again,” Haenisch said. “That would help those that are experiencing back pain due to a heavy backpack. It’s not like [that] is not an option. I think it’s more of a choice issue that students are choosing to carry heavy backpacks on their backs.”