Back to school time means backpacks will be stuffed to the brim with textbooks, notebooks, and even a laptop or tablet. However all that weight being carted around by kids can result in significant danger to young backs and spines.

Michael Loccisano, Getty Images for Nickelodeon

In some cases, backpacks can weigh 30 to 40 pounds.

“They may weigh 100 pounds and carry a backpack that’s 30, and there’s just no way that they’re of the muscle-structural development to handle that stress day after day,” said Dr. Wayne Colizza with the New Jersey Orthopaedic Society.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 24,300 individuals were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries related to backpacks in 2012, and more than 9,500 of those injuries were kids five to 18-years-old.

Colizza said he sees young patients come in complaining of back problems ranging from soreness to sharp pain, and he is always stunned when he sees the backpacks they’re carrying.

“And it’s hard enough for me to lift it up off the table to test the weight, and they’re carrying it around sometimes for half on the hour while they’re catching the bus or walking to or from school.”

He said parents need to make sure their children aren’t wearing heavy backpacks on one shoulder since that can aggravate issues by creating a curvature in the spine.

“A heavy weight particularly on one side of the body does result in a curvature of the spine temporarily and that puts a lot of strain on the muscles.”

The Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America recommend the following tips to help eliminate discomfort and reduce the risk of backpack-related injuries.

  • Kids should carry no more than 15-20 percent of their body weight.
  • Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back.
  • Remove or organize items if they are too heavy. Pack the heavier things low and towards the center.
  • When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.
  • School backpacks are for schoolwork. Carry only those items that are required for the day; if possible, leave books at home or school.