Heavy School Bags Lead to Spinal Deformities in Kids

DUBAI — Heavy school bags and slouched postures while watching TV and playing computer games are leading to an increase in spinal deformities among children in the UAE.

By Asma Alin Zain

Published: Mon 20 Apr 2009, 1:06 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:16 AM

A preliminary study carried out in 2008 by Gulf Medical University (GMU), Ajman among schoolchildren from 85 schools in Ajman and Sharjah discovered that 48 out of 1,000 of the kids were suffering from scoliosis (spine deformity).

Scoliosis is an angulation (sideward bend) of the spine that usually develops during pre-adolescent years. Besides heavy school bags, the study suggests that the deformity was also caused by the long hours children spent ‘slouched’ while watching TV and playing games on the computer and playstations. On an average, a student has to carry between 4-10 kg of books to school everyday.

“This study was carried out among children aged between 10-16 years,” says Professor Dr Mohsin El-Sayyad, Dean of Allied Health Sciences in GMU who initiated the study.

Two to five per cent of children between these ages have scoliosis though it was more common among girls than boys. Though the deformity is not painful, it may lead to complications in childbirth for women, awkward gait and cardiac issues in some cases, as per the study. Dr Salman Hameed, Senior Orthopedic Surgeon from Prime Medical Centre, Mirdiff reaffirms the findings from the study.

“Children tend to fling the heavy bag on one side of their shoulder instead of balancing the load. Complications occur when they do this everyday,” he explains. Dr Hameed also blames the modern lifestyle for the increase in such diseases. “Children do not have enough of outdoor exercise while parents also take the burden off their shoulders by allowing children to watch TV and play games for hours at a stretch,” he says.

Prof El-Sayyad says that mass screening of students in schools could identify the deformity at an early age. “We have already sent recommendations asking for compulsory screening to the Ministry of Health,” he said.

Officials from the health ministry said that though medical fitness tests were carried out in school children in Grades 1, 5 and 9, none of them screened for spine deformities. “We need more research on this condition,” says Dr Fawzia Al Jaziri, Director of School Health, Ministry of Health.


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