Back to school: Why it’s important not to overload your kids for the new term
Parents nationwide are being advised to pay close attention to the weight and design of school bags in order to prevent injury amongst schoolchildren.
For parents the end of the school holiday is often a blur, characterized by a mad scramble to get uniform, stationary and childcare arrangements in order. And if you’ve been on a shopping trip with your youngsters to get them the latest pencil case, workbooks, folders, files, textbooks and even tablet devices you will no doubt have lightened the load on your wallet. But spare a thought for the load that these new purchases might have on your child this September.
Guidelines from health experts suggest that a child should be allowed to carry no more than 10-15% of their own bodyweight on a daily basis. But according to charity BackCare, a large proportion of school pupils are now carrying around 20-25% of their own bodyweight each day (thought to be around 2 stone). Indeed, one BackCare spokesperson has even gone so far as to describe the problem as a “healthcare timebomb”.
A report released in 2012 claimed that half of children now suffer back pain by the age of 14. While there are a huge range of factors that may contribute to this statistic, many health professionals believe that the rise in complaints, combined with a dramatic increase in cases of spinal abnormalities such as scoliosis, can lay some blame at the door of increasingly weighty school bags.
Heavy and ill-fitting bags don not evenly distribute weight across the back and shoulders, leading to increased pressure and strain on the neck, back, shoulders and hips. Over the course of an academic year, this problem can build until it leaves the student with long-term problems and even chronic pain into adulthood
Our Head of Chiropractic, Jasper Hulscher, offers some basic advice to parents packing their children’s bags for the new term:
“While we don’t want to discourage children from partaking in a wide range of activities, the fact is that the combination of classroom essentials, PE kit and musical instruments can overload young children.
“The important thing for parents is to keep superfluous items to a minimum and help their children as much as possible – whether this is sharing the load to the school gates or even the school bus.
“In addition to this, parents should advise their children on the best way to pick up, lower and carry their bags. Many students now carry their rucksacks over one shoulder or even in the crook of the elbow – both of which place greater strain on the spine.
“Always invest in a good quality, appropriately sized bag for school. Too small and it will be useless, or else overfilled so that it can’t sit correctly on a child’s back; too large and the risk is that students will overpack on a daily basis simply because they can.”
What pupils carry to school:
- Exercise books
- Lunch box
- Drinks bottle
- Pencil case
- PE kit
- Mobile phone
- MP3 player
- Handheld games console