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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 00:30 GMT
School bags are a pain in the back
back pain skeleton Repetitive loading of the spine can cause low back pain


Heavy school bags are causing children to suffer back pain, according to research.

A study shows that more than a third of Italian pupils carry bags which weigh more than 30% of their body weight at least once a week.

Scientists say guidelines for the weight of school backpacks should now be drawn up in an attempt to reduce increasing rates of low back pain in children.

For the research, published in The Lancet, the backpacks carried by 237 children aged between 11 and 12, in Milan, were weighed for three weeks.

The average load pupils carried was 9.3kg - 22% of their body weight, and the average maximum load was 11.5kg - about 28% of their body weight.

Some children's bags weighed as much as 16.3kg, nearly half their body weight.

'Short-sighted'

In their report, the researchers, from the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, in Milan, say the average and maximum loads being carried by children are the equivalent of an 80kg man carrying an average load of 17.6kg, and a maximum load of 22kg.

Italian labour laws limit the maximum load which can be lifted during work, to 20kg for male workers aged 15-18.

The report says: "Rate of low back pain in children are approaching those seen in adults. Although the economic importance of the problem is small at this age, the lack of certified limits for backpack carrying is short-sighted.

"Previous studies have shown that the backpack load contributes to low back pain in childhood and our results suggest that a decrease in this load is advisable."

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See also:
22 Jul 98 |  Education
Sit up straight at the back
30 Jun 99 |  Health
Back pain torments millions

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