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Heavy Backpacks: More Than a Pain in the Back

Westchester Medical Practice pediatrician recommends ways to reduce back strain, risk of scoliosis

Cortlandt Manor, NY - (September 7, 2010) – When it comes to backpacks, less is more. Overloaded backpacks can cause back strain and, in growing children, can do permanent damage, sometimes resulting in scoliosis or curvature of the spine.

Dr. Michael LasserDr. Michael Lasser, a pediatrician with Westchester Medical Practice in Cortlandt Manor, says that while we are headed for a paperless society with i-Pads, on-line textbooks and laptops, most children will still be carrying backpacks loaded with books this fall.

"The wave of the future is not here quite yet," said Lasser, MD FAAP."Parents need to work with their children to ensure that they are not overloading their backpacks, they are sized properly and that the shoulder straps are properly adjusted."

Lasser said that parents can head off damage by following a few simple rules:

Keep it Light.

  • Loaded backpacks should be no more than 15 percent of the child’s total body weight. Find out if your child’s school offers duplicate textbooks for school and home to reduce the number of transported books.

Fit is Right

  • Size the backpack for the child. Buying a larger size so your child has room to grow may be a good idea for shoes or jackets, but when it comes to backpacks it’s not a good policy. As a rule, backpacks should hang no lower than the top of the waist. Smaller children should have smaller backpacks.

Straps Tight

  • Shoulder straps should be snug. Dangling backpacks can cause more back strain. Make sure straps are adjusted properly and check them on a regular basis. If the backpack has a waist strap, encourage your child to use it.

Balance Right

  • Messenger and tote bags may be fashionable, but as a rule they don’t make good backpacks. Weight should be evenly distributed.  It’s a good idea to use backpacks for heavy loads and to make sure BOTH straps are worn.

Tried and True

  • Our parents may have had the right idea. Lessen the burden by removing some books and have your child carry them the old-fashioned way.

For more information on backpack safety or for a free bookmark with safety tips, call Hudson Valley Hospital Center at 1-800-482-HVHC.