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The dangers of heavy backpacks: Is your child carrying the weight of the world?

Valerie Lick, [email protected] • Aug 13, 2018 at 5:30 PM

Is your teen or child slouching? It might not be an attitude problem. Kids are increasingly weighed down by heavy books, notepads and laptop computers.

According to the U.S. Product Safety Commission, 14,000 kids are treated yearly for backpack-related injuries. That seems surprising at first, but consider the average high school student’s workload — and the weight of the backpack holding the work.

If your teen has five classes and a 3-pound textbook for each one, that’s 15 pounds. And when you add the weight of the backpack itself, an assignment-filled binder, a couple of spiral-bound notebooks, gym clothes or shoes, and maybe a laptop or tablet, it’s no wonder your teen is slouching.

And in expansive schools with lockers on different floors, kids are carrying this weight all day.

“Way too many children don’t have time to go to their lockers,” explained Dr. Bill Hamilton, who has been practicing at Kingsport’s Appalachian Chiropractic PC for almost 20 years. “They’re carrying that weight around all the time.”

Luckily, there are many ways to make sure your child isn’t carrying the weight of the world on his or her shoulders.

Backpacks usually have many compartments. Use every compartment so that weight is evenly distributed.

Pack heavier items closer to the backpack’s center, close to your child’s back.

Encourage your child to use proper lifting techniques. Dr. Hamilton believes that this issue is often overlooked: “Even a light backpack, lifted improperly, can cause strain or injury.”

Go through the backpack with your child every week to remove unnecessary weight.

Remind your child to use both shoulder straps so that the backpack’s weight is evenly distributed.

If your family has a history of back trouble, you might consider investing in a rolling backpack to eliminate back and shoulder strain.

The backpack should never weigh more than 15 percent of your child’s body weight. Show your child what that weight feels like by finding the pack’s capacity on a bathroom scale.

If your child complains about back pain, or if your family has a history of back problems, try working with your child’s teacher to reduce strain. Some popular solutions are electronic textbooks or extra textbooks that remain at home.

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