Heavy backpacks weigh children down

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

The current trend of losing lockers could put a heavy load on student’s backs.
“If they have a set of books at home and a set in the classroom, that decreases the weight tremendously,” said Jai Eschete, an occupational therapist who works with pediatric patients at North Mississippi Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Center in Tupelo. However, if students are carrying all their supplies and equipment for a day, it can still overload a pack.
The problem of heavy packs is far from exclusive to schools without lockers. NMMC occupational therapists regularly do backpack education sessions at schools, and routinely find kids who are having back and neck pain because of overloaded packs.
“This is an ongoing issue,” Eschete said. “With the continuous weight on their backs, it will put a strain on the body.”
The American Occupational Therapy Association recommends that kids carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight in a backpack. The American Chiropractic Association estimates that the average load is more than 20 percent for kids around the country.
All the weight makes an impact. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated there were 27,900 backpack-related injuries among U.S. kids and adults last year.
Use of laptop computers are potentially lightening the load for Tupelo students in sixth through 12th grade.
“It’s better than a backpack and six textbooks,” Eschete said. But kids still need to make sure they aren’t overloaded with binders and supplies.
It’s not just carrying too much, Eschete said. It can be how the pack is carried or even the pack itself.
A single strap over one shoulder might present a carefree attitude, but it’s doing a number on the back.
“The coolness doesn’t outweigh the strain,” Eschete said.
Especially for younger students, Eschete frequently notices packs that are just too big for smaller frames. A well-fitting pack should be no lower than the top of the hip bones with both straps adjusted.
When the load is just more than kids can handle, wheeled packs are a good option for carrying books without a pain in the back, Eschete said.
“It decreases the pressure significantly,” he said.
michael.morris@journalinc.com