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  • Writer's picturePortia

Tis Still The Season: Trolley Suitcases

You watch a group of little boys, uniforms starched stiff, walk towards you on their way to school. If only the person who had ironed their uniforms had done yours!

Most of them hold the front straps of their knapsacks. You wonder how it is that one child is walking with his right shoulder and arm behind him (hyperextension of the shoulder). That child is pulling a trolley suitcase.

They all walk with their torsos angled slightly forward, so you see their foreheads and front hairline, as opposed to their entire faces, necks and buttoned shirts …….but that one child moves with a twist (rotation) in his spine as well.

His arm is straight and you realize that he is double jointed (elbow hyperextended). In an effort to keep pace with the conversation, he pulls the right shoulder up to his ear, lifts the back of that upper arm towards the sky, twists (rotates) his spine so that the left shoulder is closer to the road and hinges his torso a little deeper at the hip.

Over time and while little bodies are developing, the persistent bend at the hip will cause enough problems all on its own. The child’s main hip flexors (iliacus and psoas) could become overworked, short and tight. The muscles of the buttocks (gluteus group) and the back of his thighs (hamstrings) may become long and inflexible.

Constantly pulling load with his elbow straight (full extension of the elbow) and the shoulder way behind his body (hyperextension at the shoulder) could lead to, among other things, chronic rotator cuff injury. Over a long period of time, the child may find it increasingly challenging and painful to raise the right arm for everyday tasks - taking off and putting on a T-shirt; reaching the right arm back to slip on a buttoned shirt, etc.

With the right shoulder pulled towards the ear every morning, the neck and shoulder muscles will work unevenly. The poor child’s neck will hurt. He will have difficulty rolling his shoulders back and sliding them down his back for that neutral placement for his shoulder blades (scapulae) and strain free position for his neck (stabilizing the shoulder girdle). He may not realize that his right shoulder is slightly or markedly higher even when his hands are free. He will tend to find it more comfortable to round his shoulders.

In other countries, for well over 100 years, the weight of children’s school bags, implications for negative impact on posture, and the potential for pain in joints and muscles (musculoskeletal pain) have been a concern and subject of studies and articles. They provide enough information to help adults make informed choices about the features and weight of our children’s book bags. As consumers, we need to make demands to protect our little ones. Thanks to the articles and studies, it is easy to see a relationship between good posture; happy, pain free school days and the ability to ‘learn well.’ …...maybe the Grandmothers were on to something after all…….

Sterling, E. Blanche. “The Posture of School Children in Relation to Nutrition, Physical Defects, School Grade, and Physical Training.” Public Health Reports (1896-1970), vol. 37, no. 34, 1922, pp. 2043–2049. JSTOR, JSTOR,


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