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Experts: Overweight school backpacks could cause life-long health conditions

By Eric Turcio, Reporter, eturcio@ktvm.com
Published On: Jul 29 2013 07:14:13 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 29 2013 08:44:05 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Back-to-school is approaching and soon parents will be purchasing backpacks to hold supplies kids need for school. NBC Montana wanted to know how heavy is too heavy.

We tracked down parents to find out if they are buying the right sized backpacks for their children. We also wanted to know if parents are keeping an eye on how much their child's backpack weighs.

Katie Morrissey is a Bozeman mom who tells us she makes sure her 6-year-old daughter has the right backpack. It has to do two things -- carry what her daughter needs, and without hurting her child's back.

"I want her backpack to always be fitting correctly so she doesn't have any growth (defects) in the back area, spine," said Morrissey.

We also spoke with Physical Therapist Martha Stoner who works for the Bozeman Deaconess Clinic in Bozeman at the Ridge Athletic Center.

Stoner says overloaded backpacks could create life-long painful complications to a child's body.

"It can hurt your hips, your knees, feet -- could cause headaches if it's in your upper spine," said Stoner.

Stoner explained to us a child's backpack should not weight more than 10 to 15 percent of their actual weight.

When we put 6-year-old Kiah on the scale without her backpack, she weighed in at 48 pounds. After adding close to 10 percent more weight to Kiah's backpack, her weight totaled just over 56 pounds.

"It hurts my back and it hurts my shoulders," she said.

The question remains -- how can you tell if your child's bag weighs too much? Stoner says you can see signs on the child's body.

"There would be red marks on the shoulders or complaining of weird sensations in their fingers," said Stoner.

Kiah's mom, Katie Morrissey, told us she looks for backpacks that are adjustable.

"Straps you can pull tighter and then the side straps -- closer to her back," said Morrissey.

Physical therapists like Stoner also say parents need to pay more attention to their child's backpack weight as they progress to higher grade levels.