The developing bones of children is more susceptible to spinal deformation: Doctors

Recently, a school in Banjara Hills called parents for a meeting. On the agenda was a weighty problem that defied solutions — the ubiquitous, overloaded schoolbag.

The school sought the parents’ feedback on replacing the bags with tablets. This option proved equally contentious. “The school wants to continue with the discussions as many parents are wary about their children misusing the gadgets, browsing unnecessarily and ignoring studies,” said Ms Lakshmi, a parent privy to the debate in the school.

Long-term impact

But lugging heavy school bags can have an equally detrimental and lasting impact.

“Children carrying heavy school bags are prone to develop spinal problems. The weak point are the shoulders, not the back. A poorly positioned backpack can significantly modify posture and gait. The position of the spine changes when the weight of the back pack increases. The developing bones of children is more susceptible to developing deformation of the spine which may sometimes, lead to long-lasting, intractable back pain, which may be in part due to changes in lumbar disc height or curvature. Adolescents who suffer from back pain will probably have chronic back pain as adults,” says Srikanth Varma Racherla, orthopaedic surgeon at Kamineni Hospitals.

Dr. Racherla cites a 2011 Chinese study to define what is permissible weight: “The weight of a school bag should be 10 per cent or lower than the body weight in case of an asymmetrical single-strap bag, and should not exceed 20 per cent of total body weight in case of a two strap bag.”

Beyond the syllabus

“Private schools have become commercial enterprises. NCERT books are available free online but schools insist on prescribing books of private publishers which have to be purchased from the school or from a particular bookstore. The discounts that are given in bookshops are passed on as commission to schools,” alleged Ashish Naredi, executive member of the Hyderabad Schools Parents’ Association.

And hence the common sight of children getting into or off school buses, bent double under their huge bags of books.

“Our syllabus is not vast but many schools insist on notebooks, workbooks and homework books which make l bags heavy. But for classes 6 to 10, students pursuing the State syllabus don’t have to carry heavy bags,” said Somi Reddy, District Education Officer.

Ms. Rajkamal, Head Mistress at Meridian School, says: “Part of the problem is the curriculum (CBSE or ICSE) which is vast. Many of the subjects have two text books. Social science has three books. And children bring all the books to school so as not to miss anything. All the notebooks in our school are just 100 pages so they lower the weight somewhat but unless children and teachers stick to timetable the bags will remain heavy.”