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Kids go their way to school every day wearing big backpacks. Even high school students have to bend forward to lug their heavy books and binders to and from school. It looks a little silly, but is it dangerous?

Yes, say many experts. “Kids are saying ‘My back hurts, my neck and my shoulders hurt,’” says Dr. Karen Jacobs, a professor at Boston University. “Since at least 1998, we’ve noticed backpacks getting bigger and heavier, and not in proportion to the kids’ sizes.” 

How heavy is too heavy? “As a general rule, research shows the backpack should be no more than 10 to 20 % of a child’s body weight to avoid pain or potential injury,” Jacobs says. For an elementary school child who weighs just 50 or 60 pounds, a couple textbooks and lunch could push a pack beyond the safe threshold. For that reason, Jacobs says it’s important that kids are carrying only what they need. “We’ve noticed that students are taking lots and lots of water to school with them, which is a lot of extra weight,” Jacobs says. She recommends packing an empty water bottle and filling it at school. Another tip is to pack the heaviest items in the middle of the pack, closer to the back.


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