CHILDREN'S HEALTH Backpacks don't pose great risk, study says



Researchers focused on nearly 250 children between the ages of 6 and 18 with backpack injuries.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Children are more likely to be hurt tripping over backpacks or being hit with them than they are using the bags to lug around heavy school supplies, a new study suggests.
While there has been growing concern about back trouble in children who carry loaded-down packs, researchers from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital found the back was one of the least likely places where children were injured.
When kids did get hurt, about 23 percent of all injuries in the 247 children studied were caused by wearing, lifting or taking off a backpack, according to the study.
"This result shows that the actual use of a backpack is not exceptionally dangerous, and efforts should be directed toward educating children on proper backpack safety habits rather than restricting loads and redesigning backpacks," concludes the study published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Focus on issue
How much children carry to school and how they carry it has been the focus of some attention. California last year passed a law for standards on maximum textbook weights and some children around the country now use backpacks with wheels to roll -- instead of carry -- their books to school.
The study looked at backpack-related injuries resulting in emergency room visits that were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1999 and 2000.
The study acknowledges a limitation: By focusing on injuries that sent children to emergency departments, it misses those injuries diagnosed and treated in a physician's office.
For those years, the agency's data projected a national estimate of more than 12,000 injuries linked to book bags or back carriers, excluding infant-carriers and camping backpacks.
In this study, researchers focused on a sample of 247 children between the ages of 6 and 18 with backpack injuries.
Tripping over a backpack accounted for 28 percent of the injuries, while wearing one or being hit with one each accounted for about 13 percent.
Properly stowing away backpacks at home and at school could have prevented many of these injuries, said researcher Dr. Eric Wall, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
"The floor is no place for a backpack," Wall said.
Emergency injuries
Backpack-related injuries that landed children in the emergency room ranged from cuts on the face and head to jammed fingers and fractures to shoulder strains and ankle sprains.
The combination of wearing a backpack and sustaining an injury to the back accounted for 6 percent of the injuries. However, 19 shoulder injuries were linked to wearing, lifting or taking off a back pack.
That's why the American Chiropractic Association's Jerome McAndrews said children still need to be careful about how they carry their backpacks and how much weight they put in them.

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