Monday, August 31, 2009

Give Your Back a Break When Going Back to School Heavy Backpacks Are Not to be Taken Lightly

MedFN thought this common yet rarely discussed precaution deserved our attention, and we hope something as simple as this might help your kids sit up a little straighter in their classes.

The following was taken from an article
By: Maryellen Cicione
Published by:

Warnings Issued About the Dangers of Overweight Backpacks Carried by Children

The tell-tale sign of a child carrying a backpack that is too heavy is pretty evident - a hunched over posture when walking. It's not a good sign, especially for developing bodies. "Youngsters are lurched forward like peasants. Some of these children are carrying nearly 40 pounds of books and other things in their packs," says Dr. Marvin Arnsdorff, co-founder of Backpack Safety America.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 6,500 emergency room visits each year by children ages 5-18 stems from injuries related to heavy backpacks or book bags. Furthermore, a CPSC study finds that backpack-related injuries have increased 256 percent since 1996. Additional research further shows that by the end of their teen years, nearly 60 percent of children experience at least one low-back pain episode.

Within the past several years, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Physical Therapy Association, the American Chiropractic Association and the International Chiropractors Association have all issued warnings about the dangers of overweight backpacks being carried by children from preschool to high school. While some schools have implemented measures, like extra copies of textbooks for school and home use, the backpack problem still exists.

According to a study conducted in Italy, the weight of the contents in a backpack carried by an average child is equivalent to a 39-pound load for a 176-pound man or a 29- pound burden for a 132-pound woman.

The problem with lifting and carrying heavy backpacks, says Dr. Kevin Donovan, past president of the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations (COCSA), is the significant back injury that can last a lifetime. Such injuries include spinal and muscular problems.

So how does a parent know when their child's backpack becomes heavy enough to cause injury? It depends on your child's body weight. The standard set by the medical profession states that a child should not carry a backpack that weighs more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. Here's a quick weight guide to help you with your calculations:

Warnings Issued About the Dangers of Overweight Backpacks Carried by ChildrenIf Child's

Body Weight Is:
40 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 6 pounds
50 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 7.5 pounds
60 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 9 pounds
70 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 10.5 pounds
80 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 12 pounds
90 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 13.5 pounds
100 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 15 pounds
120 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 18 pounds
140 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 21 pounds
160 pounds, then maximum backpack weight is 24 pounds

In addition to lessening the load, doctors and chiropractors also recommend the following measures to ensure proper backpack usage:

* Be sure that the weight of the load being carried in the backpack is balanced and not all to one side or all at the bottom.

* Make sure the backpack does not hang more than four inches below your child's waistline.

* Be sure your child uses both shoulder straps of the backpack. Using one strap will cause them to walk bent to one side. They should also use the waist strap to stabilize the load.

* Remind your youngster to bend their knees when lifting their backpack to alleviate strain on their back muscles.

* Have your child's spine checked for proper alignment, especially if they complain of headaches, or back, neck, or shoulder pain.

* Purchase a backpack that is recommended by the medical profession. Look for backpacks, such as the DC Pack, that are engineered to redistribute the book weight from the lower back and balance it evenly across the upper body. Backpacks with several compartments help to distribute the weight. Also recommended are backpacks with wheels that a child can pull.