SCHOOL BACK PACKS AND BACK PAIN
The amount of weight carried by children in their backpacks is an important issue that deserves serious consideration. Loading of the spine is a risk factor for low back pain not only in adults but also in children; the load that children most commonly carry is their school backpack. To quantify how much weight children are likely to carry in their backpacks, researchers from Milan, Italy ascertained the weight of all the backpacks used by sixth graders at several schools.
The average load carried daily 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 lord sis, spondylolysis, Scheuermann's kyphosis, and stress fractures are the most common etiologies of back pain in this age group. Although back pain in children is likely to be multifactorial, heavy backpacks are probably an important contributing cause. The authors recommend a backpack limit of 10-15% of body weight for students.
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). - R.A.
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