A study in which researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid have participated establishes that, due to its morphology, the spine of girls suffers more from the weight of backpacks than the spine of boys. In addition, the work confirms that the weight that schoolchildren bear exceeds the rates recommended by specialists.
“After analyzing the back of schoolchildren, we found that the number of spinal alterations is 45% higher in girls than in boys,” explains María Espada, a researcher member of the Psychosocial Research Group in Sports at the Faculty of Science of the Physical Activity and Sport of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and one of the authors of this work.
“The group of girls presented a greater angulation in the different curves of the spine and a greater number of alterations in the vertebral inclinations. On the other hand, the boys presented a greater rectification of the thoracic spine, acquiring a more upright position,” Espada adds.
The data obtained showed that the girls had a more kyphotic angulation (outward curvature) in the first thoracic vertebrae (T2-T4) and between L5 and S1. They also presented a more lordotic angulation (inward curvature) between the T10 and L3 vertebrae. The researchers believe that when weight is applied, the natural curvature in the column of girls causes greater curvature in other areas as a compensatory effect.
Spinal Mouse® was used to measure the morphology of the spine, a non-invasive computerized electromechanical system, which is used to measure spinal curvature in various postures. The device passed through the entire spine of the students from the end of the cervical area to the sacrum. “This gives us insight into the vertebrae of the thoracic, lumbar and sacral area,”says the researcher.
Backpacks more loaded than they should
The work, in which 219 schoolchildren between 12 and 15 years old participated, also shows that the weight that the students carry is greater than the limit established by the experts. “Most studies suggest that the weight of backpacks should not represent more than 10% of body weight, something set even as a limit in countries such as Austria or Germany. Along the same lines are other specialists who say that a backpack weight greater than 10% of the student’s body mass means an increase in energy consumption, increases the inclination of the spine and reduces lung volume, ”says Espada.
In addition to establishing differences between the levels of curvature of the back between both sexes, the study also emphasizes that girls carry a greater weight than boys do in their backpacks. “In our work we found that these levels were exceeded in both boys and girls. Accordingly, [girls] support an average weight of 20.35% of their body mass in their backpacks, while the weight [of boys’ backpacks] is 16.5% of their body mass,” Espada adds.
“Our study suggests that the weight of [girls’] backpacks is up to 12% greater than that of the boys, which is almost a kilo of difference between the load levels of both,” Espada says.
An increasingly widespread ailment
The concern about the weight that schoolchildren carry in their backs is not new and there are numerous studies in this regard. Not surprisingly, the data collected in various studies stress that between 40 and 69% of adolescents between 13 and 15 years suffer from back pain.
The importance of this study is that its results can be used by health to intervene early and prevent or improve treatment of spinal disorders that young people can develop.