Is your child’s backpack too heavy?

Children's Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Aug 27, 2015

Have you ever noticed your child’s backpack might be too heavy? As textbooks are piled on for the new school year, it may appear he or she is carrying around a stack of bricks. If you notice your child struggling to put on the backpack or if they are hunched over, it may be causing them back pain.  According to a 2011 study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, more than 60 percent of children carry packs that exceed expert recommendations.

“I don’t think the backpacks are causing permanent damage, but they could strain certain muscles that may cause muscle and ligament pain,” said Laura Petrey, MD, trauma surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

Dr. Petrey recommends buying a size-appropriate backpack for your child with two adjustable straps for support. Many kids wear their backpacks over one shoulder because it may feel or look better, but a filled backpack should be worn on both shoulders. Backpacks should only weigh 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight. So if your child weighs 60 pounds, the most their backpack should weigh is 12 pounds.


Parents, don’t be afraid of opening up the bags and making sure your children are carrying only what they need. 

Also, watch how it wears on their body.

“If your child’s backpack is pulling them backwards and they have to lean forward when walking with it, it is too heavy,” says Petrey.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends getting your child a lightweight backpack. Added features like a padded back and a waist belt can help distribute weight better.  Students who have to lug around heavy loads might want to consider a bag with wheels to get around.

This post was contributed by Jordin Shelley, an intern for the Trauma Research department at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. 

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