Raleigh, N.C. — At Holly Grove Middle School, 12-year-old Sophie Berzins covers a lot of ground and climbs a lot of stairs while carrying a big bundle on her back. Typically in her backpack, Sophie carries two notebooks, 2 large binders and a lunch bag.
“It’s pretty hard to carry it all around—sometimes I drop stuff,” said Sophie. The middle school student says she also carries a couple of books because she loves to read.
Overstuffed backpacks are quite common - just watch any group of children boarding a bus or walking around school.
The heavy bags are known to cause long-term issues with the natural curves of the spine. “If any of those curves are flattened, that can make the back less stable,” said Chris Billiar, WakeMed physical therapist.
Billiar says that the heavy bags put a strain on the tiny muscles of the back. He recommends choosing backpacks with padded straps and a padded back.
The bag also should be properly adjusted to fit the child’s size. Billiar says, “It shouldn’t be too long or too short with the straps. Ideally, the pack should have a waist strap and/or a chest strap to relieve some of the pressure.”
Consumer Reports recommends keeping the weight of backpacks to about 10 percent of the child’s weight. If the child is 80 pounds, the pack should only weigh about 8 pounds.
Computer bags, also called messenger bags, are gaining popularity among students. These bags only have one strap slung over the shoulder. Experts recommend backpacks with two straps, which distribute the weight more evenly.