8 on Your Side: The Health Risks of Heavy Backpacks

LAS VEGAS - Chaz Lustig, like most 12-year-olds, is preparing to start 7th grade in a few days. He's so excited about it, he already has his backpack, books and binders ready to go. There's just one problem. His backpack is large and overloaded.

"I don't like it. It hurts my shoulders and neck a lot," he said.

His backpack weighs 19 pounds. That is much heavier than he expected. His mother Carolyn Lustig says she isn't surprised.

"One night, my husband was lifting it up, and he said, ‘Does he have bricks in here?'" she said. "I said, ‘They are his books for school, so there is no way around it.'"

According to Dr. Linda Frasier, an occupational therapist, that heavy backpack is a problem.

"We should not exceed more than 10 percent of our body weight, so if we are one hundred pounds, we shouldn't go over ten," she said.

Chaz volunteered to step on the scale and check his weight. He weighs 102 pounds, so his bag is twice the weight it should be.

Dr. Frasier adds it fit him poorly. "It is a little too large for his frame," she said.

She says a proper backpack will sit at the shoulder blades and never fall below the hip line. She also recommends backpacks with chest straps and thick shoulder pads.

When Chaz tried a backpack with those features, he said it felt better.

Carolyn says as important as the information is, it's not well known. "I didn't know any of that. In fact, I thought the bigger the backpack, the better," she said.

As a teacher herself, Carolyn is going to ensure her kids and her students no longer risk their health with heavy, poorly-fitted backpacks.

According to Dr. Frasier, 30,000 kids go to the emergency room each year in the U.S. because of injuries suffered from overstuffed or poorly fitted backpacks.

Children can suffer from disc problems to scoliosis because of overloaded packs. Parents should ensure before they buy their kids backpacks for the school year, to make sure they get good ones.

If you have a problem you want investigated, contact 8 on Your Side at 702-650-1907.


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