Backpack Safety Tips
August 5, 2019
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 all of their 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 backpacks.
When a backpack filled with heavy 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.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends
- A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load. For example, even though leather packs look cool, they weigh more than traditional canvas backpacks.
- Two wide, padded shoulder straps. Backpacks with tight, narrow straps can dig into the shoulders and interfere with a child’s circulation and nerves. This can contribute to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the child’s arms and hands.
- A padded back not only provides increased comfort, but also protects your child from being poked by sharp edges on objects (pencils, rulers, notebooks, etc.) inside the pack.
- A waist belt and multiple compartments help to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
10 Backpack Safety Tips
- Never carry more than 15 percent of child’s body weight.
- Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
- Lighten the load; carry only essential items.
- Always wear both shoulder straps.
- A backpack should fit over mid-back muscles and the bottom should rest in the curve of the lower back, never more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
- Wear a backpack with well-padded shoulder, hip and chest straps.
- Wear a backpack with multiple compartments to distribute weight evenly.
- Wear a backpack with reflective material to enhance visibility.
- If the backpack is too heavy, consider a backpack on wheels.
- If a child is experiencing back pain or neck soreness, consult your doctor or physical therapist.
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