Consumer Reports recently conducted a survey in rating the most durable backpacks, and found in the survey that an average 6th grader carries a backpack weighing 18.4 pounds, but some are as heavy as 30 pounds, according to Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times.
A medical adviser to Consumer Reports and also a board-certified neurologist, Dr. Orly Avitzur says that carrying a heavy backpack can cause low-back pain in children, and carrying the backpack on one shoulder instead of two exacerbates the problem.
Parents can consult some suggestions provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics about how to choose the best-fitting backpack and how to prevent injuries. Consumer Reports has also published its full report and buying guide.
Some of the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines include the following:
- Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.
- Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack two inches above the waist.
- Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student's total body weight.
- Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
- Stop often at school lockers, if possible. Do not carry all of the books needed for the day.
- Bend using both knees, when you bend down. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.
- Learn back-strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.
- Ask your pediatrician for advice.