Warning: heavy bags 'can cause back pain for pupils'
Overloaded school bags, which can weigh up to a quarter of a child's weight, are leaving youngsters at risk of back pain and poor posture.
Parents are being urged to insist their child only packs what they need and they should never wear a bag worn over one shoulder.
The warning has come from specialists in the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP), who said parents and pupils need to "consider the type of school bag, the contents, method of lifting and carrying the bag".
The group says there appears to be a worrying trend now of shoulder bags worn over one shoulder being used as school bags. They claim it is not the ideal way for students to wear their school bag as it can lead to poor posture.
Physiotherapist Sara Dockrell, who is Assistant Professor at the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, said: "Carrying a school bag is not all bad. Walking to school with a school bag may be the only form of exercise that some children take, therefore we want to encourage, not discourage it.
"The ISCP advocates that exercise and movement is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and promotes a minimum of 60 minutes activity per day for children, or 15,000 steps."
However, she stressed the need to ensure the child follows basic guidelines to avoid physical strain from their school bag.
The advice is:
- Buy a lightweight backpack with adjustable, padded shoulder straps.
- A bag that is too big for the child, or that has not been adjusted to fit correctly, will hit against the child and affect their gait.
- Look for a padded back and a waist strap if possible.
- Put the heaviest items close to the back. This means less strain on the spine.
- Wear the bag on the back with straps on both shoulders.
- Carrying the bag on the back requires less effort and encourages better posture than carrying over one shoulder, which causes shoulder elevation on the side of carriage and side flexion to the opposite side.
- Carry the school bag only when you have to.
- If you are standing around or waiting for a bus, leave the school bag on the floor/ground while waiting.
- Avoid swinging the school bag around and lifting it on the back.
- Involve your school, and encourage better timetabling of classes to minimise need for books to be brought every day.