The bags children carry to schools are taking a toll on their young spines. In an exercise carried out by HT Chandigarh on students of Class 6 of five private schools in the city, St John's High School and Bhavan Vidyalaya top the list with heaviest bags at 11 kg.
The other three schools are Sacred Heart School; Saupin's School, Sector 32; and Delhi Public School, Sector 40, and the bag load varied between 5 and 6 kg.
The exercise also highlighted that the weight of school bags was more than what the orthopaedics experts prescribe.
The average age of Class-6 student in 11 years and body weight is between 40 and 45 kg. But, the weight of school bag for both these schools was found to be 11 kg, which is around 25% of the body weight of the child of that age group.
The heavy bags are a cause for concern for parents. "Every night before going to bed, my son prepares his bag for the next day. I often see that the books are so many that they cover the entire bed. From his gait, I can very well make out what kind of burden he is going through," said Dr Amit Gupta, an eye surgeon at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, whose son studies in Class 6 at St John's.
Dr PN Gupta, an orthopaedician, whose son studies in Class 6 at Bhavan Vidyalaya, said a large-scale study was needed to reach to the bottom of the question of how much does a heavy backpack actually damage a child in his or her growing age.
According to experts, the maximum weight of school bag should be between 5 and 10% of the total body weight of the child. A study on school bags released by the PGIMER in April found that the average weight of the bag of the students enrolled in the study was 7 kg for Class 8, 5.5 kg for Class 9 and 6 kg for Class 10. The study found that students were prescribed from 22 to 31 notebooks for different classes.
DPI (schools) Upkar Singh could not be reached as his phone was switched off.
HS Mamik, president, Independent Schools Association, said "We are providing a students' desk in schools so that they can keep some books permanently, but some children opt carrying all books to and fro from the school. Hence, how can we help in such a situation?"
School Bag weight
Bhavan Vidyalaya, Sector 27 11 kg
St John's, Sector 26 11 kg
Delhi Public School, Sector 40 5 kg
Sacred Heart, Sector 26 6 kg
Saupin's, Sector 32 5.5kg
(Students of Class 6)
The risk factors
"A heavy bag slung over one shoulder can, over many years of schooling, cause chronic back problems that linger into adulthood. Risks include muscle strain, distortion of the natural 'S' curve of the spine and rounding of the shoulders. Parents can reduce the risk in many ways like buying your child an appropriately sized backpack and making sure the load isn't too heavy," Dr Priyanka Arora, coordinator, department of physiotherapy, Fortis Hospital SAS Nagar.
Correct lifting, carrying techniques
*Adjust the shoulder straps so that the bottom of backpack is just above the child's waist - don't allow them to wear backpack slung low over their buttocks.
*When fitted correctly, backpack should take the shape of the child's back, rather than hang off their shoulders.
*The child should lift backpack with a straight back, using their thigh muscles. It should be lifted with both hands and held close to the body. Slip an arm through one shoulder strap, and then the other.
*If the child has to lean over, their backpack is too heavy, incorrectly fitted or wrongly packed.
*Make sure the child understands that carrying backpack over one shoulder will cause back pain and potential injury.