I was watching a morning news show over Labor Day weekend and they quoted a study that 60 percent of children complain of back pain from their backpacks, some of which continue to have back problems long after they stopped carrying the packs. Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but now it’s becoming disturbingly more prevalent among young children. More and more children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that backpack-related injuries sent more than 21,000 people to the emergency room, doctor’s offices, and clinics in 2003 alone.
This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks – often slung over just one shoulder. In many cases these students are carrying 30-40% of their body weight. In fact, studies being conducted in France show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself. Ultimately, what needs to be considered is whether the deformity will ever return to normal.
The results of these types of studies are especially important as more and more school districts are not letting their students keep their books in lockers, forcing the students to carry their books with them all day long. The problem has become so widespread, in fact, that the California State Assembly passed legislation that would force school districts to develop ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey as well.
In our next blog post we will discuss what can be done to help prevent pain from using a backpack.