Saturday, August 20, 2005

And yet, we survived....

Backpacks: the "latest" "scare".
In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study, published in the magazine Pediatrics in 2003, that examined acute backpack injuries in children.
Someone got a grant, paid good money to researchers with Ph.D.s, crunched the numbers, wrote it up, sent it in, other Ph.D.s reviewed the work, pronounced it publishable, and it's now part of the scientific heritage of Western Civilization. But it took the Times two years to bring this crisis to our attention....
The study looked at some records from 100 emergency departments throughout the country. It found that 247 children from age 6 to 18 had backpack injuries. The mean age was 11, and the injuries were divided fairly evenly between boys and girls.
That's an average of 2.5 injuries per E.R. per year related to school backpacks. Is that a lot? Doesn't seem like a lot to me. Perhaps there's a gender differential in the kind of injuries?
Update: Checking the original research (Pediatrics, January 2003) I find that they surveyed two years worth of data and found over 12 thousand backpack/book carrier related injuries. The 247 number is their statistical sample.
Surprisingly, it wasn't the weight of the backpacks that was the most common cause of injuries; it was tripping over the backpack, which occurred in 28 percent of the time. Getting hit by the backpack caused 13 percent of the injuries.
Update: They also found that injuries to the hand caused by reaching into the backpack and encountering resistance (blunt or sharp), or by the backpack slipping down to the wrist, were quite common.
Another 13 percent of the injuries - to the neck, backpack and shoulders - were caused by wearing the backpack.

"The 'nonstandard' use of the backpack (tripping, hitting, etc.) resulted in 77 percent of all backpack injuries that required an emergency room visit," the study noted. Therefore, training students to put their backpacks in a safe place and not to use them as weapons against another person would eliminate many backpack-related injuries.
[emphasis added; Update: this is a fair representation of the original paper, actually. They're not kidding]
How much training is it going to take? Do we need posters, or health class films (Beware the Backpack and the sequel Rucksack Rampage), or is this the kind of thing you get a new assistant vice superintendant to coordinate?

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