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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 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).
Source: School Health Alert, April 2000




The Structure of the Skull