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Heavy backpacks: Here's how to lighten the load this school year

Posted at 8:15 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 04:12:40-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Lighten the load this school year.

Students seem to carry everything they need for the school year and then some but it can do some damage. That’s why doctors say you should keep track so they don’t hurt their spines.

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WPTV went to a local high school to see just how much kids are carrying on their backs.

With a scale on the sidewalk, we asked students walking home from school to put their bag down and see how. Much it weighed.

Jack Sanchez’ bag came in at 11 pounds.

“After a while, you get pretty used to it,” he said.

Out of the dozen or so students we talked to, Alex Murray’s bag weighed the most at 16 pounds.

“I got two more textbooks today,” the high school freshman said. “It’s probably not good for most of the kids.”

Freshman Selin Duzturk also got her textbooks on Wednesday. Her bag weighed 15.9 pounds.

“To be fair, I’m taking a lot of college classes,” she said. “Everything doesn’t fit in my bag. I have a three-inch binder, a two-inch binder and two one inch binders.”

Her friend and fellow freshman Keegan Jolly said she uses a heating pad at home to deal with the back pain.

“I’m already starting to feel it a little bit in my back, which worries me,” she said.

Doctors warn that if students don’t take extra care of their backs, it could affect them in the long run.

“I would not use anything above 15 to 20 pounds,” advised Dr. Liza Gonzalez with Palm Beach Children’s Hospital.

Experts say carrying too much weight on the back can cause back pain, posture problems, and even pelvic unleveling.

“They’re having a lot of neck pain, causing a lot of strain on their back so they have to hunch just to compensate for their weight,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez listed the features a good backpack should have in order to alleviate problems:

- Padded straps
- A wide, padded back
- Compartments to distribute weight
- Bag does hang below the waistline

She also suggests that students find a bag with a waist strap for extra support and not to extend the straps so far below the waistline. 

“They can hyperextend their back or hunch just to compensate for the weight,” she said.

No more than 4 centimeters below the waist is a good rule to follow.

Weight is critical as well.

“The weight of the backpack should be 15 percent of the total body weight of the patient,” she said.

So for example, if your child is 75 pounds, the backpack should not weigh more than 11 pounds.

“For parents, it’s always good to advise students to use lockers, use your desk at school. Just bring in your backpack what you need,” said Dr. Gonzalez.

Junior Taylor Cutshaw said she has scoliosis so she tries to go easy on herself. Her friend said sometimes their options are limited.

“Sometimes we don’t have time to go to our lockers because our class schedules don’t allow us to go there,” said Emilio Reyes.

Roller backpacks are also an option but keep in mind some schools don’t allow them and some do. It’s up to each individual campus so just call your child’s school and check what the regulations are.

For more information on how to better manage heavy backpacks, click here for more from the National Safety Council.