Dr. Leahy Talks About the Healthy Use of Backpacks

Dr. Brian Leahy

Dr. Brian Leahy is celebrating his 30th anniversary as a chiropractor in Everett with offices at 107 Ferry Street.

Leahy has earned distinction in his field and served as the official chiropractor for world heavyweight champion John Ruiz throughout his boxing career.

A graduate of Malden Catholic, Boston State College, and the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Iowa, Leahy is frequently called upon for his expertise in all areas related to chiropractic care and injury prevention.

And as the new school year begins, Leahy has been addressing the topic of backpacks, those individual storage containers that so many students use to carry their books and personal belongings to and from school.

The father of four children, including one daughter, Lauren, who is a teacher at the Whittier School in Everett, the 55-year-old doctor has developed into an expert in the proper way to carry a backpack and prevent back and shoulder problems.

“Because I’m a chiropractor you get aware of the use of backpacks and quite often I’ll see kids carrying the backpack too low or with just one strap, or little kids carrying these huge backpacks,” said Leahy.

Leahy also remembers when his son, Brendan, was a student at Austin Prep and he’d see students carrying backpacks overloaded with textbooks. (His 19-year-old son was an All-Scholastic goaltender at Austin Prep who is now playing junior hockey).

“The weight of the backpacks shouldn’t exceed ten percent of the child’s weight,” said Leahy. “So if you have a 50-pound child, the backpack should weigh at most five pounds.”

Leahy said selecting the proper size backpack for a child is crucial to proper usage.

“A parent will purchase a big backpack and think that it will be more comfortable for them, but what happens is that you have a tendency to overload them – and when you overload the backpack, there’s more weight to carry. I’d recommend different compartments in a backpack so the weight can be equally distributed.”

Leahy also cautions that backpacks should be fitted properly on the shoulders. “A lot of times kids are little bit casual about their backpacks and the straps are too lose and the backpack ends up below their waist. When that happens, they’ll have a tendency to lean forward. The backpack should be four or six inches above the waist.”

He prefers adjustable straps so students can keep the backpack closer to their bodies. “When you lift things or carry something at arms’ length, it’s hard to carry it. If you can bring that object close to your body, it’s easier to carry it. The strap should also be padded because the non-padded straps can dig into the kid’s shoulder and that can hurt.”

Leahy said that students should avoid use cell phones while carrying a backpack.

“When you’re talking on your cell phone and you bring your arm up with the cell phone, you have a group of nerves that run right along the shoulder and if you have a very heavy backpack, you’re exposing those nerves to greater compression,” said Leahy.

Leahy is often asked to recommend pillows, mattresses, and chairs that are best for the back and other regions of the body. “I always say that the best one is the one that’s the most comfortable. In regard to backpacks, Air Core has a very good product. But I think if you have an appropriate size backpack with the padded shoulders, adjustable straps, and belt, it would be beneficial to a child’s health. As long as backpacks are used properly, I think they can be advantageous as opposed to carrying a number of books and belongings in your hands.”

Leahy is giving back to the community in more ways than dispensing expert chiropractic care to a large group of patients. Though he’s humble about his contributions, he will in fact be donating a backpack to a student for this school year.

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