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Heavy, ill-worn backpacks can hurt children

Friday, Aug 30, 2013 6:49 PM
Last updated 8:43 PM
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Filled with fat textbooks, big binders, notebooks, pencils, calculators and other supplies, heavy backpacks can be a real pain for students.

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Children carry backpacks as they walk to the bus to leave Tutt Middle School.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Children carry backpacks as they walk to the bus to leave Tutt Middle School.

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

Comments (5) Add comment
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leebraxjr 08/30/13 - 09:01 pm

Can someone please explain why every year this same topic comes up. I think there has been more than enough time out cards for these kids. If our youths were to participate in active and healthy curriculums there would not be a need for this same story.

If you look at the "helpful hints" , one can only see loopholes as to why a student is not bringing all of their books home, why the child is failing particular classes and so forth.

I have a question for the bleeding hearts out there. If your child decides to join the Military, Forest Ranger, triathlon or any other active event that requires rucksacks of 80 to 120 lbs. Are you going to be out in front of the child protesting the cruelty of the required conditions?

Please do not get me wrong, I understand about children having to much in their backpacks up to 4th grade, my comment is more towards the teenagers that may think they qualify for the excessive weight.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/31/13 - 08:08 am

They run this story in every newspaper and broadcast it on every news program at the start of every school year. It's the same thing as the news stories on how crowded that airports are on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Just lazy journalism.

CricketSeranade 08/31/13 - 08:38 am
Really Lee?

It's school, not boot camp. Kids who are eighty pounds carry thirty plus pound book bags. Notice I said KIDS, not soldiers. And the reason they run the story every year is because nothing is being done about it. Rolling book bags are great, but not all schools allow them and they do little to help kids who live in the country and don't have paved driveways.

I will never understand why someone would go through the trouble of clicking on a link and reading a story, only to then complain about the content when the subject matter was clearly spelled out in the headline for the article. Especially when they have already read a similar article before.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/31/13 - 10:34 am
Light One Candle

Here is what I would do to improve backpackgate if I were a classroom teacher. On the first day of school (or whichever day I distribute the books) I would announce, “Class, take care of your books. I want you to take the books home this afternoon, and do NOT bring them back to school until I tell you. We will not be using our books in class. We will be using other resources I provide. You will be receiving homework assignments that come from the books. You will be instructed to read certain pages in the books at home. You will be tested on material from the books. But you need not lug the books back and forth from home to school. Thank you. Class dismissed.”

pantherluvcik 09/02/13 - 07:03 am
I have a niece that is in the

I have a niece that is in the 5th grade and a daughter that is a high school student and they both are very petite females. My niece can barely lift her book bag and even though she has a rolling bag there are still occasions where she has to lift it and she needs help every time. My daughter can not use a rolling bag in her school so she has to carry hers all the time and she always complains about her back hurting. I feel sorry for both of them, but what do you do because the books are a necessity. I think the article is relevant and is appropriate with the issues children are having with backpacks.

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