They used to be for carrying books and lunches. When you add portable video games, gym clothes, and designer school supplies, though, backpacks are just too heavy for most kids.
Many backpacks that appeal to children are ill-designed for the task at hand—carrying a day's worth of school books, supplies, gym clothes, and kid treasures. They may look pleasing, but they may not have the proper padding and support to keep children from developing chronic problems with their backs.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the extra weight in backpacks can lead to medical problems for kids, with muscle fatigue and strain at the top of the list. Backpacks can also injure a child if the weight of its contents adds up to more than 15% of his or her body weight.
In a study of children in middle school, researchers found that 37% reported back pain. A third of the students said that the pain limited them from doing some activities. Researchers also found that 2 factors were associated with less back pain: having school lockers available and using a lighter backpack.
Follow these tips to help lighten your child's load:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Backpack safety. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00043. Updated August 2015. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Backpack safety. Nemours' KidsHealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/learning/backpack.html. Updated August 2013. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Skaggs DL, Early SD, D’Ambra P, Tolo VT, Kay RM. Back pain and backpacks in school children. J Pediatr Orthop. 2006;26:358-363.
UCSD researchers report results of children’s backpack study. University of California, San Diego Medical Center website. Available at: http://health.ucsd.edu/news/2005/Pages/12_05_Macias.aspx. Accessed November 5, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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