Overloaded backpacks can injure children

Aug. 19, 2011 at 3:08 PM

NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Overstuffed backpacks can injure schoolchildren, says an expert, who asks parents to make sure their kids aren't lugging around "unnecessary items."

Dr. Joshua Hyman, director of orthopedic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, said in a statement millions of children will be at risk of injury when they return to school this fall because of overweight backpacks.

"Parents should inspect their child's backpack from time to time," Hyman said. "They often carry much more than they should, with extra shoes, toys, electronic devices and other unnecessary items."

Hyman, also an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said a backpack shouldn't weigh more than 15 percent of a child's weight, or approximately seven pounds for a child weighing 50 pounds.

"If it is textbooks that are making the bag too heavy, parents should speak with the teacher. Sometimes, these books can be left at school," he said.

Also, to guard against injury, children should wear a backpack correctly over both shoulders so the weight is spread evenly, Hyman said. As an alternative, they could consider a backpack on wheels.

If a child experiences persistent pain, Hyman said, parents should consult their pediatrician, who may recommend physical therapy to strengthen back muscles.

A backpack may be too heavy if a child's posture changes when putting it on or if the child suffers pain or has tingling or red marks.

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