THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG AT SCHOOL…
But you wouldn't expect an injury from a backpack to be one of them. However, given the recommendations for backpack weight, you might be surprised to find that your child's backpack is dangerously over the recommended weight.
I met with Dr. Scott Clark of Clark Integrated Medical Clinics to talk about how this stress can affect a child in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways.
Dr. Clark describes the effect of a heavy backpack with the saying, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
In other words, the repetitive bending of the spine forward or sideways from a heavy backpack or an improperly worn backpack can impact the way the spine matures. This could lead to obvious immediate problems like pain and discomfort but could also develop into more serious issues like difficulty sleeping, inability to concentrate in school, and potentially even behavioral problems.
According to Dr. Clark, common signs of an improperly fitting backpack are loose straps, a backpack that is hanging below the waist, and a child having to bend forward to compensate for the weight of the backpack. Again, these can lead to serious spinal problems if not corrected.
Dr. Clark explained how a backpack SHOULD fit to properly carry the weight. These are his recommendations:
- The top of the backpack should be at the top of the shoulders.
- Both straps should be worn and they should be padded.
- Straps should be tightened as much as possible.
- If the backpack has cross-straps, those should be used to help support the weight of the bag.
- The backpack should not be more than 10% of the child's body weight according to the newest guidelines set by the American Chiropractic Association.
It's worth weighing your child's backpack periodically to see how much weight is actually in it. Like Dr. Clark said, the backpack should not be any more than 10% of the child's body weight. This means for a child that is 100 pounds, his or her backpack should not weigh more than 10 pounds.
The bottom line is this…a heavy backpack can cause many issues in the short term as well long term. The amount of weight that is acceptable is very low and your child's backpack might exceed that by quite a bit.