BACK PACKS AND BACK PAIN
The amount of weight carried by children in their backpacks deserves serious
consideration. Loading the spine risks low back pain not only in adults but
in children; the load that children commonly carry is their school backpack.
To quantify how much weight children likely carry in their backpacks, researchers
from Milan, Italy ascertained the weight of backpacks used by sixth graders
at several schools.
The average load was 20.5 lbs., reaching as much as 27.5 lbs. with the maximum
daily load averaging 25.3 lbs. Over one-third of the students carried more than
30% of their body weight at least once during the week.
While increasing numbers of children are developing back pain, it is difficult
to assign the cause of this increase to heavy backpacks alone. Postural lordosis,
spondylolysis, Scheuermann's kyphosis, and stress fractures are common etiologies
of back pain in this age group. Although back pain in children is likely to
be multifactorial, heavy backpacks are an important contributing cause.
The authors recommend a backpack limit of 10-15% of body weight for
Children with back pain can be given medical excuses to allow them to have
two sets of books, one at home and one in school, to avoid additional material
being carried to and from school.
(Zimbler S. Pediatric Alert 2000; 25(1):5)
COMMENT: Children have become their own beasts of burden. They deserve our help
in establishing weight limits--15% of ideal body weight is a reasonable
maximum (obese children already carry an additional built-in burden which should
not be used in calculating 15% of body weight).
Source: School Health Alert, April 2000