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J Sch Health. 2013 May;83(5):368-77. doi: 10.1111/josh.12040.

Schoolbag weight limit: can it be defined?

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Discipline of Physiotherapy, School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.



Carrying a schoolbag is a daily activity for most children and much research has been conducted in an effort to identify a safe load limit for children to carry in their schoolbags. Despite this, there is still no consensus about guideline weight and other factors associated with carrying a schoolbag. The objective of this article is to review the literature on schoolbags with particular emphasis on the load limit guidelines and schoolbag-related musculoskeletal pain, and to suggest directions for school health and future research.


Science Direct, PubMed, AMED, CINAHL, OVID, EMBASE, and Scopus were searched for peer-reviewed articles using combinations of the following key words: schoolbag, backpack, rucksack, knapsack, satchel, book bag, book pack and included combinations of children, pain, gait, and posture. Article references were also checked for further citations. All are in English, with the exception of one which is in German but is widely cited.


There are conflicting findings in the literature. The recommended load limit for schoolchildren to carry varies from 5% to 20% of their body weight, and the evidence linking backpack weight and back pain is inconclusive.


The shortcomings in the current literature should be addressed so that evidence-based guidelines can be provided to schoolchildren, parents, and teachers. It is suggested that general guidance may be more appropriate than a single load limit guideline.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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