Doctor warns: Beware of bone damage from heavy backpacks

Dr. Mara Karamitopoulos, a surgeon at The Maimonides Bone & Joint Center on Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst, is urging parents to pay close attention to the types of backpacks they purchase for their children. Photo from

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

With school set to open soon, parents are probably busy buying school supplies for their kids. One of the items on every student’s do-do list is the purchase of a new backpack to carry notebooks and textbooks.

But parents should be careful when making the purchase and should take precautions to make sure the backpack isn’t crammed with heavy materials once the child is going back and forth to school, according to a doctor at Maimonides Medical Center.

Dr. Mara Karamitopoulos, pediatric orthopedic specialist at the Maimonides Bone & Joint Center on Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst, said adults should make sure to select the proper backpack based on the size and strength of their child.

Her advice comes as parents and children are preparing for the first day of school on Sept. 9.

Her first piece of advice: a backpack should not weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight.

“Choosing an ill-fitting backpack can have negative consequences. You could place your child at a higher risk of developing lower back problems,” Karamitopoulos warned.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries are treated by hospitals and doctors.

To make sure the backpack is in the safe range, a parent should check to see if the child leans forward when walking while wearing the backpack. If so, the backpack is too heavy, Karamitopolous said.

To evenly distribute the weight of the backpack, Karamitopoulos suggested that parents purchase a backpack with a waist-belt which helps to relieve stress on one area of the back.

Wearing only one strap, or selecting a one-shoulder backpack, is not recommended because it shifts all of the weight onto one shoulder, the doctor said.

Parents should look for backpacks with multiple pockets to help distribute the weight. The heaviest items should be placed on the bottom to keep the weight off of the shoulders and maintain better posture.

 Other tips from Dr. Karamitopoulos: 

  • Choose a backpack with padded, wide straps. Thin straps will dig into a child’s shoulders.
  • Backpacks with wheels take away the burden of carrying something heavy on your back. However, your child’s school may not permit these kinds of backpacks. Check with the school before you buy one.
  • If a child has a locker in school, a parent should encourage the youngster to drop off books throughout the day to avoid carrying a heavy load.
  • Tighten the straps so the backpack is closer to the body – but not so tight that the straps dig into the child’s shoulders. The backpack should not extend below the lower back and should rest evenly in the middle of the back.
  • Parents should plan the child’s homework in advance so he or she doesn’t have to carry all of the books home on a single day.

“If possible, keep an extra set of textbooks at home,” Karamitopoulos said. “This way your child doesn’t have to carry the same books back and forth,” she said.

Adhering to these simple safety tips can safeguard children’s backs and reduce the risk of injury, Karamitopoulos said. And making these guidelines a habit for the young might continue to protect them into adulthood, she added.



September 6, 2013 - 9:00am



Join the conversation

Most Popular

  • Most Viewed
  • Most Commented
  • Most Shared
  • Past:
  • 1 day
  • 1 week
  • 1 month
  • 1 year