An average school bag weighs anything between 6 to 12 kilograms. Carrying such heavy weights can cause serious back injuries in children. Read on to know more.
By Monali Bordoloi
Despite a 2016 Bombay High Court order to reduce the weight of school bags, children lugging heavy bags every day are a common sight in every Indian city. The court observed that these could cause serious back injuries in children. Concerned about this, the Maharashtra government has come up with a regulation that school bags should not exceed 10 per cent of the body weightof a student.
Majority of school children, who complain of pain and discomfort from carrying heavy backpacks, are in the age group of 10–15 years. Studies state that 60 per cent of students below the age of 10 suffer from stress-induced injuries. Oversized bags, over time, could even cause serious spinal deformities in school-going children.
Let’s understand the repercussions that students face while carrying heavy school bags:
This is the term used to define a group of conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system in the human body including the muscles, ligaments, discs, tendons and nerves. In children carrying heavy backpacks to school every day, this could mean serious injury to the back and spine.
Dr Deepak Sharan, who has extensively researched the topic, recently presented a paper on 'Musculoskeletal disorders in Indian school children due to carrying heavy backpacks', during the 20th World Ergonomics Congress in Florence, Italy. The paper states that regularly carrying heavy school bags could lead topain in the upper back, shoulder and neck in school children.
Dr Deepak Sharan said that such chronic pain in children could continue into adulthood and may cause long-term issues.
He adds that it could even affect the normal functioning of the brain. Dr Deepak warns that the long-term impact of the condition could lead to imbalances in postural alignment, which in turn can cause damage to the nervous system of a student. In some serious cases, as the alignment of the spine is imbalanced, the communication between the brain and the body could get disturbed.
Jayashree Hunsur from Bengaluru, who is the mother of a child studying in the seventh standard, says, “It breaks my heart to see my son carrying such a heavy backpack to school every day. We once complained about it to the school authorities. They assured us that they are working towards reducing the weight, but we could not see any improvement.”
If you notice school-going kids, you will see those children, who carry heavy school bags tend to veer their head forward. As they carry a heavy weight on their back, they push their upper body to adjust it. This action damages their muscles and makes their posture unnatural. Over time, this leads to lower back pain.
Those who suffer from this condition may not experience any discomfort initially, until it’s too late. Another long-term effect of MSD is that children become more vulnerable to spinal cord injuries. In some cases, the pain from carrying heavy backpacks may be so intense that the students are forced to miss school.
If your child is having MSD caused by heavy backpacks, he would have the following symptoms:
All the above symptoms and complaints may disappear when the child is at home during the school holidays.
The school backpack should be less than 10 per cent of the body weight of the student carrying it. That means a child, whose weight is 40 kg, should carry a four kilogram bag and no more.
"If the pain from carrying heavy backpacks to school every day becomes unbearable, the child should be given physiotherapy," says Dr Sharan.
Apart from that, here are some more ways to lighten the load:
With inputs from Dr Deepak Sharan, leading Bengaluru-based consultant on Orthopaedics, Rehabilitation, Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and Health.
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