Published 8/4/2023

College Move-In Day 101: Prepare for Success, Not Injuries

Orthopaedic surgeons provide advice on packing and avoiding move-in day mishaps

ROSEMONT, Ill. (August 4, 2023)—College move-in day may take months to plan and gather all the essentials a student needs for a dorm room or apartment, but it only takes a few seconds for one wrong move to result in an injury, like a broken bone. Given the excitement of heading to college, and let’s face it, the emotions of dropping your loved one off for the year, the bone and joint experts at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) want you to ace the big move.

“Moving into college dorms is exciting and exhausting all at once. Lifting heavy loads can stress muscles and joints. Soreness is expected, but sprains and strains can be avoided by minimized by partnering to lift, using rolling equipment, and taking breaks to hydrate and rest,” said Jennifer Weiss, MD, FAAOS orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson. “With approximately 19 million students attending college,[i] there are bound to be some injuries when moving in that first day. Common moving injuries typically occur in the neck, back and shoulders, so take time to prepare and proceed with caution while lifting and walking with heavy items.”

Experts at the AAOS offer the following roundup to help decrease chances of musculoskeletal injuries on move-in day:

Pack smarter, not harder
Between the summer heat and the potential for stairs in a walk-up dorm or apartment, it is helpful to pack items in smaller bags or boxes rather than lugging oversized, heavy boxes that are awkward to lift and carry. Look for lightweight, durable bags with handles and work to distribute the weight among all the items so these are easy to lift and carry.

Lift with your legs, not your back
Bend at the knees to use the large leg and glute muscles instead of your back to pick up heavy items. Don’t twist or rotate while lifting; instead bend your knees and pivot your whole body, not just the torso. For extra support, consider wearing a back brace or bringing a collapsible wagon, dolly or folding hand truck for larger items.

Enlist help
There will come a day when you will no longer be able to convince friends and family to help you move in exchange for free pizza. Before that day arrives, ask a few able-bodied friends to help you move larger items. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.

A clear path to success
Tripping and falling can occur when there’s an obstacle course of boxes and bags on the floor. Make sure there is space to walk around safely by stacking items on furniture until it’s ready to be unpacked. Speaking of tripping, wear the right footwear. Sandals or shoes with heals are not as sturdy as sneakers or work boots, not to mention that open-toed shoes leave your toes vulnerable to injuries.

Step it up
Use a stepladder to loft the bed or hang decorations on the walls. The highest standing level should be two steps down from the top and it’s always good to have someone spot you when possible.

For more injury prevention strategies including other back-to-school safety tips, visit

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About the AAOS
With more than 39,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is the world’s largest medical association of musculoskeletal specialists. The AAOS is the trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal health. It provides the highest quality, most comprehensive education to help orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals at every career level to best treat patients in their daily practices. The AAOS is the source for information on bone and joint conditions, treatments and related musculoskeletal healthcare issues; and it leads the healthcare discussion on advancing quality.

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[i] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Back-to-School Statistics. Accessed July 25, 2023.

Contact AAOS Media Relations 

Deanna Killackey 


Lauren Riley