Heavy backpacks decrease blood flow to arms

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 28, 2008

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Wearing a loaded backpack reduces blood flow to the arms, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society in San Diego earlier this month.

Researchers had eight healthy volunteers put on 26-pound backpacks for 10 minutes. This diminished blood flow in the brachial artery and halved microvascular activity to the index finger. The authors suggest that this could lead to fatigue and loss of fine motor control.

"We surmise that the mechanisms of diminished blood flow is likely due to strap compression of the axillary vein," said Timothy Neuschwander, MD, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego. "We think that backpack straps may benefit from a redesign that skirts the vein leading from the upper extremity to the heart."

The authors are particularly concerned about the majority of children who carry heavy backpacks as well as adults in professions such as firefighting that require hoisting large loads this way.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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