Panthongthae Dibunmi Na Chum Phae, a Mathayom 3 (Grade 9) student at Chumphaesuksa School, at Khon Kaen Hospital sought treatment on Monday (July 29) after she suddenly fell ill and developed a fever.
The 14-year-old schoolgirl was treated by a doctor who, after examining an X-ray, found her spine was bent and suspected it might have been caused by her carrying a heavy bag over a long period.
Her mother, whose name was not revealed, believed the doctor's theory because her daughter complained of back pains three years ago after pursuing her Mathayom 1 (Grade 7) studies at the school.
Responding to the claim, Obec secretary-general Suthep Chittayawong said yesterday that schools have long been instructed to adopt safety rules for students, including limiting the weight of students’ bags.
“I’ve sent letters to education zone officials and school directors nationwide to remind them of the rules that they must follow,” Mr Suthep said.
Schools can further help prevent injuries caused by heavy bags by providing students with lockers although this is not mandatory, Mr Suthep said.
After the girl’s mother had accused the school of causing the back problem, Deputy Education Minister Khunying Kalaya Sophonphanich promised to consider having students use e-book readers instead of textbooks.
However, other doctors rejected the idea that the weight of her school bag led to what is believed to be “scoliosis”, or a twisted and curved spine, though they admitted the weight of textbooks can worsen the illness.
Orthopaedic surgeon Kittiphong Witthayaphairot, who also works at Khon Kaen Hospital, said he doubted the mother's claim.
“Carrying heavy bags over the shoulder cannot cause the [scoliosis] disease. This would more likely lead to muscle pains.”
He added that even though physicians cannot always identify the exact causes of scoliosis, one is believed to result from certain genes passed on to patients.
It is a rare disease and usually occurs among teenage girls in elementary and upper secondary school, he said.
If youngsters who suffer from scoliosis regularly carry heavy bags, “their spine will be further curved”, said Chatchawan Santiphiphat, lecturer of orthopaedics at Khon Kaen University’s Srinagarind Hospital.
Delays in diagnosing the condition can leave surgery as the only option to correct the misalignment, he added.
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