The Book That Broke Your Student’s Back: The Hidden Dangers of Heavy Backpacks

Backpacks and students seem to go hand in hand. Ever since the 1980s, the bags have become a necessity in order to haul around books and school supplies. Backpacks can be both functional and fashionable, but they also pose a hidden danger. Backpacks are one of the leading causes of injuries in children.

Each year some 20,000 children become injured due to overloaded backpacks. That includes more than 5,000 kids who suffer injuries serious enough to be treated at the ER. In fact, 25% of students have reported experiencing back pain during the school year.

While those numbers may be alarming, they should come as no surprise considering:

  • 60% of students age 12-17 carry the equivalent of at least 10% of their body weight in their backpack
  • 20% carry at least 15% of their body weight in their bags

Injuries caused by backpacks include but are not limited to:

  • Shoulder and back strain
  • Lifelong lower back pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Reduced breathing capacity
  • Tripping injuries

Now that you know a bit more about the risks backpacks cause, here are a few things you can do to keep your children safe.

Keep it light – Experts recommend that your child’s backpack weighs no more than 10 to 15% of their body weight. Limit the amount of items in the backpack to only those necessary to take home or bring to school. Use various compartments in the bag to distribute weight equally.

Use available storage – If your children have lockers make sure they use them. If they don’t have homework in a particular class they don’t need to bring that book home that night. If the option is available and affordable, consider purchasing a second set of textbooks to keep at home.

Utilize technology – If your kids are allowed to use digital textbooks they are a great option. A tablet weighs less (1 to 2 lbs.) than a traditional textbook does (3.5 lbs.), and they’ll only need one. Even though the wheel was invented 5,500 years ago, rolling backpacks are a hip new trend that can drastically reduce many health problems associated with wearing a backpack.

Proper form – Wearing a backpack correctly means using both straps. Spending a bit more on a bag with more support will be worth it in the long run. The backpack should fit snugly and close to the body.

Don’t ignore back pain – If your child has complained about back pain, don’t dismiss it as a normal ache and pain. That pain could be from carrying a heavy backpack around all day, especially if they have a long walk to and from school. For peace of mind, schedule an appointment today with Portland Pediatric Group in Irondequoit by calling 585-342-5665.