Backpack Safety Information
More than 20,000 backpack related injuries occur each year, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Although many factors may lead to back pain - increased participation in sports or exercise, poor posture while sitting, and long periods of inactivity - some children have backaches because they're lugging around their entire locker's worth of books, school supplies, and assorted personal items all day long. Most doctors and physical therapists recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their packs.
When a heavy weight, such as a backpack filled with books, is incorrectly placed on your child's shoulders, the weight's force can pull your child backward. To compensate, your child may bend forward at the hips or arch his or her back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. Because of the heavy weight, your child might begin to develop shoulder, neck, and back pain.
Kids who wear their backpacks over just one shoulder may end up leaning to one side to offset the extra weight. They could also develop lower and upper back pain and strain their shoulders and neck. In addition to back pain, improper backpack use can also lead to poor posture. Smaller children may be at a heightened risk for backpack-related injuries. These children may carry loads that are heavier in proportion to their body weight.
You may need to adjust your child's backpack and/or reduce how much your child is carrying if he or she struggles to get the backpack on or off, has back pain, or leans forward to carry the backpack. In order to help avoid these problems, keep the following steps in mind when selecting and using backpacks:
Step 1: Choose Correctly.
Purchase a Safe Pack. Despite their potential problems, backpacks are excellent tools for children when used properly. Before you buy that trendy new backpack your child has been begging you for, consider the backpack's construction.
Although wheeled packs may provide a good option for students who have to carry really heavy loads, they may be less practical than traditional backpacks. Wheeled packs can be difficult to pull up stairs and roll through snow. Check with your child's school before buying your child a rolling pack; many schools don't allow them because they can pose a tripping hazard in the hallways.
Step 2: Pack Correctly.
Lighten the load. No matter how well-designed the backpack, doctors and physical therapists recommend that children carry packs weighing no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight - but less is always better. If your child doesn't know what 10% to 15% of his or her body weight feels like, use a scale to get an idea (for example, if your child weighs 100 pounds, the backpack shouldn't weigh more than 10 to 15 pounds).
Encourage your child to use the locker or desk frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire day's worth of books in the backpack.
Make sure your child isn't toting unnecessary items; Laptops, CD players, and video games can add extra pounds to your child's pack.
Encourage your child to bring home only the books that are needed for homework or studying each night.
Use all of the backpack's compartments. Make sure to put heavier items, such as textbooks, closest to the center of the back.
Step 3: Lift Correctly.
Picking up the backpack the right way can also help your child to avoid back injuries. As with any heavy weight, your child should face the pack, bend at the knees, use both hands, and lift with the legs when lifting a backpack to the shoulders.
Step 4: Wear Correctly.
Use and pick up the backpack properly. Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps. Bags that are slung over the shoulder or across the chest (or that only have one strap) aren't as effective at distributing the weight as bags with two wide shoulder straps. Using only one strap of the backpack may strain muscles and increase the curvature of your child's spine. It's also a good idea to tighten the straps so that the backpack fits snugly against child's body, and sits 2 inches (5 centimeters) above your child's waist.
To help make backpack safety easy, simply remember these 10 Backpack Safety Tips: