Heavy, ill-worn backpacks can hurt children



Filled with fat textbooks, big binders, notebooks, pencils, calculators and other supplies, heavy backpacks can be a real pain for students.

Taylor Winfrey, a seventh-grade student at Tutt Middle School, tries to leave books she doesn’t need for homework at school. Still, her backpack can be so heavy that a friend helps carry it.

“When I’m carrying it, sometimes my back hurts it’s so heavy,” she said Friday.

Winfrey isn’t alone. About 50 percent of students carry a backpack that weighs more than the recommended 10 percent of the student’s total body weight, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association.

In 2007, more than 2,000 backpack-related injuries were treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices and clinics, the medical association says.

“The medical concerns we typically see are children with back pain, shoulder pain and misalignment of the spine from prolonged use of a backpack,” said Linda Rhodes, an occupational therapist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

Changes in posture, complaints of pain, numbness or tingling of the shoulders are signs that a child is not wearing a backpack properly or carrying an overloaded bag, Rhodes said.

Every school year, Tutt Middle School Principal Nathan Benedict said he talks with teachers about lessening the load for students, who are encouraged to leave books they do not need for homework at the desks in their homerooms.

But, there’s no way to send a student home with an empty backpack and prepare them for class, he said.

“Bookbags are heavy but students need their books,” Benedict said. “It’s one of those problems that’s hard to find a real good solution to.”

Tutt hopes that technology initiatives to equip more students with electronic books or tablets will make backpacks lighter for students.

Vernon Rogers is one of the many parents that chose backpacks on wheels for their children. Even with a rolling backpack, Rogers helps his daughter, Alexia Rogers, carry the pack up the stairs outside Tutt Middle to the sidewalk.

“I couldn’t hardly pick it up,” Rogers said.


Children’s Hospital of Georgia occupational therapist Linda Rhodes offered parents and students these guidelines for proper use of backpacks.

• A backpack should never exceed 10 percent of the user’s bodyweight

• Load heavier books closer to the child’s back

• Make sure items don’t slide around, shifting the weight distribution

• A backpack needs wide, well-padded shoulder straps

• Always use both straps to carry the backpack on both shoulders

• Use a waistbelt if the backpack is equipped with one

• A backpack should fit the space between the shoulders and waist, never exceeding 4 inches below the waistline

• Make sure the backpack only includes items necessary to carry home



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