Doctors warn about the dangers of heavy backpacks

8:42 AM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - As students head back to school this week, experts warn about often overlooked danger - heavy backpacks.

Backpack safety is something many people simply don't think about, but if you look at what the average student lugs around in them: textbooks, binders, clothes, laptops, anything they may need for they school day, the pounds can really add up.

"More than half of the children in this country wear backpacks that are heavier than what they ought," said Dr. Melinda Bruxvoort, with Total Health Chiropractic of West Michigan.

In fact, experts and doctors caution kids from wearing backpacks that are more than 10 percent of their body weight. That means a 100 pound child should not wear a backpack weighing more than 10 pounds.

Studies show about 55% students carry backpacks weighing more than what's recommended and 64% of them reported pain associated from carrying them.

"If a child is wearing a backpack that is too heavy for them, it might pull them back. So, to compensate you might see your child pulling forward that is one red flag," said Bruxvoort. "They might also complain of back pain or tingling in their arms or hands. That is also a red flag that your child is wearing a backpack that is too heavy for them. That can lead to poor posture, unnatural curvature or unnatural compression of the spine."

She says if your child complains of back pain that is a sure sign to get them in to see a doctor.

"Children may be resilient but they also tend not to complain until the last minute. Follow your heart. Follow your gut," said Bruxvoort.

Following a few guidelines can to help prevent problems in the first place.

For one, make sure the backpack is the appropriate size, based on the student's body frame. The backpacks should have wide padded straps and the straps should be worn over both shoulders, and a hip strap should be worn as well. The backpacks should not extend any lower than the waist or curve of the back.

"We do recommend that children stop at their lockers throughout the day, so they are not carrying their full load of textbooks that entire school day," said Dr. Bruxvoort. "Also make sure your child isn't carrying unnecessary items in their backpacks such as laptops, phones and games, all those things that children like to have with them throughout the day."

September 18th is National School Backpack Awareness Day. Experts across the country will work to raise awareness and provide additional resources.

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