GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Books, lunch boxes, aftercare clothing and sport stuff - it all needs to be packed and bagged when our kids leave the house for school. But how much weight is acceptable when your child slings that bag over a shoulder?
Many parents have resorted to pull bags, reasoning that it's probably the better option when the children start changing classes in the higher grades.
The number of books a learner needs to carry nowadays has been the talking point of many conversations between concerned parents. Some schools assist learners by keeping some books in the classrooms.
The George Herald consulted a local biokineticist, Anine van der Westhuizen, about the matter of backs and bags.
This is what she has to say:
The weight of a carrying school bag has a great impact on a child's biomechanics and posture, and may lead to injury or pain in the future.
Most studies recommend that the weight of a carrying school bag should not exceed 10 to 15% of the child's body weight. Thus, if you have a 9 or 10-year-old, who weighs between 25kg and 32kg, the child's bag must weigh between 2,4kg and 3,2kg.
A more recent study showed that even a low load of only 5% of their body weight can have an influence on lower limb and trunk angles, while a bag of as heavy as 15% of the child's body weight starts influencing angles relating the head, neck, trunk, lower limb and overall posture.
As the angles of the body change, other parts of the body have to compensate to maintain centre of gravity, and to ensure locomotion (travelling from one point to another) at an effective speed, which may lead to injury or pain.
There are many guidelines to reduce the load of a carrying backpack, including using a wheeled backpack. Even so, a few things need to be considered. A wheeled backpack is usually heavier than a canvas backpack, and occasionally the child will probably have to carry it up the stairs or in narrow spaces, between desks and so forth.
Besides this, the backpack is usually pulled by the same arm (usually the dominant side) every school day. This asymmetric pulling of the bag (where the two sides of the body are unequal) may lead to a change in their gait pattern, which also leads to adaptations within the body due to compensation for the uneven load.
When the body compensates, certain muscles take over the work of those that are supposed to do the work, which may result in pain or injury.
A few tips when buying a school bag:
- A backpack needs to fit properly and needs to have adjustable buckles and straps.
- The centre of the bag should be at the level of the waist of the child. The weight of the bag must be borne by the pelvis and transferred to the legs.
- It is important that the parts of the bag that come into contact with your child's body are padded so that the weight is distributed evenly over a large area.
- Go for backpacks with pockets, slots, and dividers to evenly distribute the weight. the best backpack should have many compartments.
- Quality counts. Always buy bags from good brands. Bags that are locally manufactured often have attractive colours and pictures to attract children, but they rarely follow the manufacturing principles that keep children's backs safe.
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