Physical therapist and friend of The PediaBlog, John Duffy, reminds parents on his blog that their kids’ heavy backpacks shouldn’t cause pain or injury, especially if precautions are taken:
As with any other piece of equipment in life….be it a helmet or shoes, a proper fit maximizes function and reduces risk.
And use this as a good educational experience for your kid…..teaching them that gradually increasing the load is best, and that the back is NOT fragile and waiting to be injured……it’s actually strong and can handle a lot! Use the backpack as a form of strengthening and exercise that many kids don’t get nowadays.
Check the size and fit of the backpack first and then make sure the load is properly distributed when carried on the back:
A 2018 study published in Ergonomics found that high backpack loads can significantly influence gait stability/walking posture, while a study in 2013 found that the time and method of carrying a schoolbag was significantly associated with hand, wrist and upper back symptoms. Pain from a heavy back pack can develop in 4 to 6 weeks.
So how can you keep your little ones from suffering from more than just their homework? The American Occupational Therapy Association recommends purchasing a backpack with the correct fit. The height of the backpack should extend approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to the waist level (or slightly above the waist). The shoulder straps should be well padded and worn on both shoulders to evenly distribute the weight. The backpack should have a hip or chest belt to be used to help take the strain off of the neck and shoulders as well as improve your child’s balance. Lastly, utilize different compartments to distribute the weight, placing the heavier items closer to the back and center. It is recommended that the backpack weigh no more than 10% of your child’s bodyweight, however a 2017 study puts that recommendation into question. If in doubt, consider providing a wheeled schoolbag for your child instead.