When Emily's Backpack Weighs More Than She Does
They used to be for carrying books and lunches. When you add portable video games, gym clothes, and designer school supplies, though, backpacks are just too heavy for most kids.
Nancy Gold does a test when she fits a child for a backpack. She takes three phone books—no small item in Schenectady, NY—and puts them in the pack. Most children tell her that is just about how much weight they carry in their backpacks every school day.
Many backpacks that appeal to children are ill-designed for the task at hand—carrying a day's worth of school books, supplies, gym clothes, and myriad kid treasures. They may have the right movie character, but none of the proper padding and support to keep children from developing chronic problems with their backs.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) surveyed orthopedists about back problems related to backpacks. Many of those surveyed said the extra weight in backpacks can lead to medical problems for kids, with muscle fatigue and strain at the top of the list. They also concluded that a backpack could injure a child if the weight of its contents adds up to more than 20% of his or her body weight.
Also, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine concluded that most children do carry backpacks that are too heavy, which can lead to shoulder and back pain.
Most doctors recommend that a pack does not exceed 10%-15% of the child's body weight.
Last reviewedDecember 2011by Brian Randall, MD
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