Background and purpose. Carrying heavy book bag loads can change gait patterns, which may lead to muscle soreness and excess wear and tear on the joints. Very few book bag studies have been done on college age students even though this age group represents a large population of book bag users. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects that a weighted backpack and messenger bag have on gait variables of college students ranging in age from 18 to 30 years. Methods. Gait variables of 25 female and 25 male subjects were analyzed using the GAITRite™ mat system. The gait variables measured were stride length, base of support, cadence, speed, double and single support times. Comparisons of these variables were made between walking: without any bag, with an empty backpack, with an empty messenger bag, with 20% of the subject's body weight in a backpack, and with 20% of the subject's body weight in a messenger bag. Results. Significant differences were found between non-weighted and weighted trials in all the variables except for base of support of the female subjects and cadence of the male subjects. Significant differences were noted between the weighted backpack and weighted messenger bag trials in stride length for both males and females, and gait speed for the femaIe subjects. Discussion and Conclusion. The results from this study showed that a load of 20% body weight carried in both types of bags was enough to significantly impact some of the gait characteristics of both males and females aged 18- 30 years. The messenger bag was found to have more effect on the gait characteristics than the backpack.
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