Children account for over 10,000 backpack-related visits
annually to emergency departments or physicians. Backpacks
cause acute injuries, such as bruises and sprains, and chronic
problems, such as persistent low back pain. The daily stress
a backpack on one shoulder may also alter a child's posture
and gait. Despite all these potential problems, many parents
aren't addressing the issue of backpack safety.
Researchers in a recent study gathered data on parental knowledge
of their child's backpack weight by evaluating nearly 200
students, grades K-5, from three Texas schools. Only children
with backpacks weighing at least 10% of their body weight
Average pack weight was approximately 11 lbs., which represented
about 15% of student body weight. Researchers found that fully
one-third of students reported their parents had never once
checked their backpack contents, and less than 5% of parents
had ever actually weighed their child's backpack. In this
report in the Archives of Disease and Childhood, the
backpacks of students whose parents never checked the packs
weighed significantly more than packs of students whose parents
kept an eye on pack weight and contents.
As a parent, you are possibly the best source for backpack
safety promotion for your child, and can do so simply by inspecting
the backpack weight and contents. Physicians and parents should
also ensure that student backpacks are the right size; carry
no unnecessary or additional items; are worn on both shoulders;
and weigh less than 10-15% of the student's body weight.
Forjuoh SN, Little D, et al. Parental knowledge of school
backpack weight and contents. Archives of Disease and Childhood
2003:88, pp. 18-19.
To learn more about pediatric health, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/pediatrics/index.html.