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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Burdened By Backpacks

Published February 8, 2010 11:17 AM by Rebecca Mayer

The use of backpacks among school students has fueled many debates this year. And for good reason. When used properly, backpacks are a convenience. But overloaded or improperly worn backpacks can cause injury, especially to the growing muscles and joints of young children.

First the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) released this article on the ABC's of proper backpack use in April 2009.

The APTA study led by Shelley Goodgold, PT, associate professor of physical therapy at Simmons College in Boston, found that 55% of the children surveyed carried backpack loads heavier than 15% of their body weight, the maximum safe weight for children recommended by most experts.

Just last week, Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC, declared his own personal war on overloaded backpacks after seeing too many cases of back pain in his clinic from backpack use. Black is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is manager of outpatient rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, TN.

Black says, "...we are dooming our children to more spinal problems than anyone in history has experienced. And spinal care is already the third-most expensive health-care problem we have to deal with."

Goodgold suggests that parents look for the following signs that their child's backpack may be too heavy: the child experiences pain while wearing the backpack; complains of tingling or numbness in the arms; or if the backpack leaves red marks on the child's shoulders.

Black encourages school representatives, parents and local and federal government officials to intervene and propose solutions to this growing phenomenon. What steps can be taken to lighten the load of our children?


posted by Rebecca Mayer


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