Many parents and some kids will voice concerns about backpacks being “too heavy”.
But how heavy is too heavy? Paul Sponseller, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore states, “a full backpack shouldn’t exceed 20 percent of a child’s body weight.” A sure sign that a youngster’s pack is too heavy: they’ll complain of shoulder, neck and back pain, or muscle soreness or tingling hands (“daypack Hiker’s Syndrome”). When such symptoms are present, the following suggestions are heeded: (1) lighten the load. Your child’s backpack, for instance, should only contain the books and materials that she’ll need for the day. Another key to avoiding harm from an overloaded backpack is balance. Make sure that the majority of the weight in the pack is resting mostly on your child’s hips, and not on her shoulders. (This means you should put the heaviest items in first, so they’re at the base of the pack.) (2) Also, after your child’s pack is filled, make sure that the contents are distributed in such a way that there are no protruding points or objects that stick uncomfortably into his back. (3) A child’s backpack should have wide padded shoulder straps worn on both shoulders (some children sling only one strap over a shoulder, i.e. the newer “sling packs” – very chic but not ergonomic! And may cause strain and injury even when the pack isn’t overstuffed). The straps should be tightened so that the pack hugs the body about 2 inches above the waist. And for carrying heavy loads, the best kinds of packs have waist belts and individual compartments, allowing the weight to be spread evenly.
The good news is that, according to pediatric orthopedists, there is no evidence that carrying backpacks can do any lasting damage to kids.