Student walks through slush January 2020

A student walks through the slush outside of the Nebraska Union on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Physical therapists from the University Health Center educated students this week on how something they carry on their back everyday could be harming their health.

The University Health Center weighed students’ backpacks at booths on East Campus and City Campus to demonstrate the strain backpacks can put on a student’s back. Jenny Meints, a physical therapist assistant at the health center, said the booths are part of a community outreach event to promote proper backpack wear. 

Meints said the health center has students weigh their backpacks in order to give them an idea of how much they carry on a daily basis. 

“It’s kind of a good visual for students to see how heavy their backpacks are,” Meints said. “We ask people to guess how heavy it is, though a lot of times it’s hard to guess and people think it’s lighter than it actually is.”

Meints said the UHC recommends students wear their backpacks with both straps, ensuring it is above the waist and weighs no more than 15% of the student’s body weight.

She said improper backpack safety can result in health problems. 

“The more weight in your backpack, or if it isn’t evenly distributed, it will increase the strain on your back, neck and shoulders which can lead to pain and uncomfortability in those areas,” Meints said. 

The health center also provided handouts to students with a graph showing how much weight a student should be carrying relative to their own body weight, according to Meints. The handout also has backpack safety tips and contact info for the health center’s physical therapy services.

Being early on in the semester, Meints said the average weight for backpacks has been around fifteen pounds. 

“It all depends on the day and what kinds of classes students have that day, but we did have somebody come by with a 25-pound backpack, so that was probably the upper end, but we’ve also seen as light as four pounds,” she said.

According to Meints, the health center tries to hold backpack safety events early on in the semester in order to educate about backpack safety as soon as possible.

“The sooner that we can educate students, the better,” she said.

Meints said students can come to the health center for physical therapy to help with backpack related pains and strains, as well as other strains and injuries students may have. 

“We want students to know this resource is here for them, and they can feel comfortable coming there whenever they may need it,” Meints said.