Ergonomic Expert Dr. Karen Jacobs asks Students ‘What’s in Your Backpack?’ — BU Professor Raises Awareness about Health Risks of Overloaded Backpacks

(Boston) — In honor of National School Backpack Awareness Day™ on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, Dr. Karen Jacobs, a Boston University Sargent College occupational therapy professor and former president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), will be conducting “weigh-ins” at a Boston area school to ensure that the weight of kids’ backpacks exceeds no more than 10% of their body weight. This annual event helps educate children, parents, school administrators, teachers, and the community about the serious health problems associated with wearing a backpack incorrectly.

Jacobs and graduate OT students from Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College will be at the Jackson Mann School in Brighton, MA from 9:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. on September 19th and at St. Mary of the Assumption Rectory School in Brookline, MA at 1:15 p.m.  Jacobs and her graduate students will weigh the backpacks of elementary school students and offer guidance on the best way to wear a backpack. Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to aching back and shoulders, weakened muscles, and stooped posture.

“More than 72 million American school children will be wearing a backpack to and from school every day this academic year. And as OT’s, we’re concerned about the increasingly serious problem posed by improper school backpack use,” says Jacobs.  “We risk doing long-term damage to our kids’ growing bodies by remaining silent on this public health issue.”

Jacobs advises minimizing long-term health problems by loading the heaviest items closest to the child’s back and arranging books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.

Jacobs supports the effectiveness of backpack education. In a study, almost 8 out of 10 middle school children who had been educated on backpack safety subsequently changed how they loaded their backpacks and ultimately, reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders.

Dr. Karen Jacobs is a sought after ergonomics expert who champions backpack and computer safety for children and teens. She conducts research, writes, and speaks about these topics regularly. She is a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, the former president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and a recent winner of the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Award, the highest academic honor given by the AOTA.  Jacobs is the recent author of the children’s book How Full is Sophia’s Backpack which integrates tips on proper backpack usage into its imaginative story.

Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College is an institution of higher education, which fosters critical and innovative thinking to best serve the health care needs of society through academics, research, and clinical practice. As reported by U.S. News and World Report, its graduate programs in Speech-Language Pathology and Physical Therapy are ranked in the top 8% of all programs while Occupational Therapy is #2 in the nation.  For more information and to learn about degree programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, language and hearing sciences, health science, athletic training, human physiology, behavior and health, and nutrition, visit

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 16 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.