Backpacks: Find one that won't weigh you down

By Elizabeth Temple - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission says more than 7,000 children sustained injuries last year from overloaded backpacks. Kristy Como is a teacher and parent, so she understands how much students carry around.

"Of course I make him bring all his books home in the afternoon, so it is heavy," said Como.

Geoffrey, Kristy's son, carries a backpack to school and though doctors say it is better than a side-shoulder bag, it can still weigh him down.

"Students who carry backpacks that are too heavy tend to lean forward to compensate for that weight or they tend to hyper extend their backs which places an uneven load through the spine," said Dr. Craig Morton, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at The Orthopedic Center in Lake Charles.

Dr. Morton says kids should only carry 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in the backpack.

"So for an 80 pound student that would be no more than 8 to 12 pounds," explained Dr. Morton.

Kristy, who is a ninth grade teacher, says she sees students carrying way over that limit.

"I see kids that never go to their lockers and they're carrying around at least 20 pounds all day long," said Como.

Kristy says it is not just the heavy textbooks that weigh down backpacks, it is all the extras that tend to accumulate over the year.

"Some of the responsibility lies on the student. They need to not carry around extra CD players, video game systems and they need to try to bring home what they need only at the end of the day and not try to carry their entire locker home," said Dr. Morton.

When looking for the right backpack, Dr. Morton says to start with a light weight one.

"You want to use wide straps, padded straps. It's nice to have a pad on the back of the backpack to protect the back in case you bump into things. You want the bottom of the backpack to be about two inches above the waist. Some backpacks come with belt straps and though it might not look cool, it definitely helps distribute the weight evenly," he explained.

Dr. Morton says the worst strain can happen when a student does not use both straps, causing their back to lean. If the bag is too heavy, he says to try other ways of carrying your books.

"Perhaps put half the books in your backpack and then maybe one or two under your arm," suggested Dr. Morton.

And Geoffrey's solution…

"Do my homework in class," said Geoffrey.

Copyright 2010 KPLC. All rights reserved.