The effect of backpack weight on the standing posture and balance of schoolgirls with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and normal controls

Daniel H.K. Chow, Monica L.Y. Kwok, Jack C.Y. Cheng, Miko L.M. Lao, Andrew D. Holmes, Alexander Au-Yang, Fiona Y.D. Yao, Man Sang Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Concerns have been raised regarding the effect of carrying a backpack on adolescent posture and balance, but the effect of backpack loading combined with other factors affecting balance, such as adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), has not been determined. This study examines the effects of backpack load on the posture and balance of schoolgirls with AIS and normal controls. The standing posture of 26 schoolgirls with mild AIS (mean age 13, Cobb angle 10-25°) and 20 age-matched normal schoolgirls were recorded without a backpack and while carrying a standard dual-strap backpack loaded at 7.5%, 10%, 12.5% and 15% of the subject's bodyweight (BW). Kinematics of the pelvis, trunk and head were recorded using a motion analysis system and centre of pressure (COP) data were recorded using a force platform. Reliable COP data could only be derived for 13 of the subjects with AIS. Increasing backpack load causes a significantly increased flexion of the trunk in relation to the pelvis and extension of the head in relation to the trunk, as well as increased antero-posterior range of COP motion. While backpack load appears to affect balance predominantly in the antero-posterior direction, differences between groups were more evident in the medio-lateral direction, with AIS subjects showing poor balance in this direction. Overall, carrying a backpack causes similar sagittal plane changes in posture and balance in both normal and AIS groups. Load size or subject group did not influence balance, but the additive effect of backpack carrying and AIS on postural control alters the risk of fall in this population. Therefore, load limit recommendations based on normal subjects should not be applicable to subjects with AIS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-181
Number of pages9
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2006


  • Backpack
  • Balance
  • Load carrying
  • Posture
  • Scoliosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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