Back to School: Dangers of heavy backpacks

It's time to think about heavy backpacks and its dangers. News 12's Carol Silva speaks with Dr. Vincent Johnson from New York Spine & Pain Physicians on the topic.

News 12 Staff

Sep 4, 2019, 8:00 AM

Updated 1,776 days ago

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It's time to think about heavy backpacks and its dangers. News 12's Carol Silva speaks with Dr. Vincent Johnson from New York Spine & Pain Physicians on the topic.
Below find more information on backpack-related injuries and tips on how to prevent getting hurt, from the doctors at the New York Spine & Pain Physicians:
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports more than 14,000 children a year are treated for backpack-related injuries.
- A recent study published in Surgical Technology International suggests children and teens who carry too heavy of a load are at risk for long term health problems since they put stress on areas of the spine that are still developing.
- First of its kind research using upright MRI scans published in the Spinal Journal concluded heavy backpacks can lead to spinal disc compression and curvature of the spine.
HEAVY LOAD 101
WHAT'S IN YOUR BACKPACK?
Think about how much the stuff weighs that you stuff inside your backpack and lug around all day.
Textbook - Up to 3 pounds each
Smartphone - ½ pound
Tablet, like iPad or Kindle - Up to 1 ½ pounds
Chromebook - 3 pounds
Laptop - 5 pounds
WARNING!
A backpack is too heavy if you:
- Struggle to put it on or take it off.
- Lean over or your posture changes while wearing it.
- You feel tingling or numbness in your limbs.
THE POTENTIAL DAMAGE
- Neck – When a backpack is too heavy it can create a 'forward trunk lean.' This causes you to extend your neck and head forward and you can experience neck and shoulder pain. Remember, on average the human head weighs about 10 – 11 pounds, also the weight of a bowling ball!
- Shoulders – Your shoulders are not a coat rack. They are not made to hang things on. When you carry a heavy load on your shoulder, your joints and muscles can get tight and can create possible strain.

- Lower Back – When you change your posture or lean forward to compensate for a heavy load you can trigger back pain and muscle tightness.
- Hips – Leaning forward to handle a heavy load on your back can cause your hips to become sore.
- Knees – If you carry a heavy load on one shoulder, you might have to adjust how you walk by putting weight on one leg and that could create knee pain.
HOW TO FIX?
- Make sure a backpack weighs no more than 10% of your weight. You can put the backpack on a bathroom scale to see if the load is too heavy. Also, let you child experience what a heavy load feels like.
- Use a backpack with wide, padded straps and always wear both straps to evenly distribute weight. Make sure straps are tight, but don't let them dig into your shoulders.
- Get the right size backpack for your body. It should not be wider than your torso or hang more than 4 inches below your waist.
- Use a backpack with lots of pockets. Using every compartment helps circulate weight evenly.
- Pack heavy stuff at the bottom.
- Always bend knees and use both hands when lifting your backpack.
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