Heavy bags pose health risk to children, warn physiotherapists
Growing numbers of children are at risk of developing back problems from heavy school bags, physiotherapists have warned.
Bags can be packed not just with school books but also sports gear and now some heavy digital devices. It means children can end up carrying 20pc of their weight on their backs when their skeletons are developing. However, Sara Dockrell, a chartered physiotherapist and assistant professor at the School of Medicine in Trinity College Dublin, said basic precautions can reduce the risk of harm and minimise discomfort.
Buy a lightweight backpack- style bag with adjustable padded shoulder straps. A backpack carried on the back requires less effort. Padded shoulder straps are comfortable to wear and when adjusted correctly ensure the correct fit of the bag.
Ensure the bag fits the child. A bag that is too big for the child will hit against the child's bottom as he or she walks. The bag will move out of step with the child's normal gait pattern; this can result in a feeling of discomfort and greater feeling of effort.
Look for a padded back and a waist strap if possible. A waist strap distributes weight and a padded back protects the back.
Place the heaviest items close to the back. This means there will be less strain on the spine;
Wear the bag on the back with the straps on both shoulders. Carrying the bag on the back requires less effort and encourages better posture than carrying over one shoulder.
A pupil should aim to only carry what they have to. Think ahead and only carry books and other items that are required. If there is a locker available in school, make good use of it.
Ms Dockrell also said the best technique when putting on the bag was to place it on a surface and "then with your back to the bag, put your arms through the straps".
Where possible parents could suggest timetabling of classes to reduce the necessity for children to bring all their books to school every day.