Medically Reviewed by Albert T. Gilpin, Jr., MD
First, the clothes for Physical Education. Add a pencil case, calculator, water bottle and MP3 player. Stuff in a couple textbooks. Don’t forget one or two 5-subject notebooks. Top it off with some keys or hand sanitizer. And voila’! You have a student’s school backpack.
If your student’s backpack is like most these days, it may weigh 20 to 25 pounds, about 20%+ of your student’s total body weight. Today’s school bags are twice as heavy as ten years ago. One study found that more than 5 out of 10 of U.S. school students carry a backpack that’s too heavy for them.
“Carrying this weight daily – often using a single shoulder strap – can lead to lifelong shoulder and back problems or contribute to the need for hip or knee joint replacements later in life,” says McLeod Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Al Gilpin, MD. “A child’s skeleton is still growing and can be harmed for life.”
Some experts are recommending a school backpack no heavier than 10% of a student’s body weight. Here are signs of trouble and tips to help you.
WATCH OUT FOR THESE SIGNS OF TROUBLE
Keep an eye on your child. Are they working too hard to put the backpack on or take it off? Are they using only one strap and leaning to one side? Are there other changes in posture, such as leaning too far forward or slouching? Can you see red marks on their shoulders after they take the backpack off?
When you’re shopping for a new student backpack, keep these guidelines in mind:
Lighten the load for your students with these suggestions:
Keep an eye on your student’s backpack and posture. If they are wincing or if pain persists when they are not wearing the backpack, see an Orthopedic Specialist.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Safety Council, American Occupational Therapy Association