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Children’s heavy backpacks may cause injury, study reports

Lindsay MacAdam
Shine On
March 19, 2012

Being studious is important, of course, but if your children carry too many books in their backpacks each day it could be detrimental to their health, says new research.

The University of Santiago de Compostela's department of preventative medicine and public health studied 1,403 students aged 12 to 17, from 11 schools in northwestern Spain, looking at the health implications of carrying overly heavy backpacks to and from school.

The findings, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, indicate that carrying too much weight on your back leads to more than just sore shoulders. Seventy per cent of participants were diagnosed with curvature of the spine, scoliosis or continuous and involuntary muscle contraction, and 26 per cent felt back pain for more than 15 days in a one-year period.

Related: Cell phone radiation could harm your unborn baby: study

The study's authors advise that students limit backpack weight to 10 per cent of their body weight or less, reports BBC News. The vast majority of the students studied were carrying much more than that. Seventy six per cent carried backpacks weighing more than 10 per cent of their body weight, while 20 per cent had backpacks weighing more than 15 per cent of their body weight.

Girls were more likely to suffer from back problems related to heavy backpacks and their risk increased with age, reports BBC News.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Alberto Ruano Ravina, concluded the following in his report: "The results obtained have strong implications. Many children transport excessively loaded backpacks, an excess which would not be allowed for workers in employment. We strongly encourage the medical and educational community to start advising parents and school children about the risks posed by heavy school bags and the fact that this risk can be easily reduced."

His solution: "Parents could supervise the contents of backpacks of schoolchildren. We have found that on many occasions they carry to school unnecessary materials," Ravina tells the Toronto Star.

Ravina's prediction is that lugging around a heavy backpack as a child could result in serious back problems as an adult, which could quite possibly affect one's attendance at work. Your best bet, it seems, is to nip this in the bud as early as possible and make sure your children aren't carrying more than they need to.

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