Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that more than 7,000 children were injured last year due to overloaded backpacks. Shockingly some of the backpacks were weighing as much as 45 pounds.
Experts recommend that backpacks weigh no more than 10 percent to 15 percent of a child's weight, but the average backpack weighs in at 20 percent.
Advertisement"In fact, 10 percent to 19 percent of children miss school or sports activities every year because of pain caused by heavy backpacks," says Matthew Dobbs, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children's Hospital. "And 30 to 50 percent of adolescents complain of pain related to backpack use."
Dobbs says pediatricians can help their patients avoid injuries from using backpacks by stressing to them the following:
- Limit personal items.
- Don't carry the pack by hand or sling it over one shoulder. Use both straps over the shoulders to distribute the weight evenly.
- Wear backpacks over the strongest muscles, located in the midback.
Treatment for backpack pain usually involves prescribing anti-inflammatory medicine for 10 days. Physical therapy is sometimes recommended.
"These types of injury are usually temporary, and pediatricians can reassure parents that the extra weight doesn't cause structural or long-term damage to the spine, nor does it cause scoliosis," Dobbs says. "But since backpacks are a fun and popular way for kids to express their own sense of style, it's important that physicians stress safety precautions to patients and their parents."