Back to school with backpack safety tips

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2012

It is estimated that 80-90 percent of school-age children and teens use a backpack daily.

Backpacks are a convenient, hands-free way to carry books and school supplies, but a pack that is too heavy will cause the child to bend at the hips, resulting in an abnormal posture causing muscle sprains and low back pain. This poor posture may also make the child off-balance, so falls are more common. Lifting injuries and shoulder sprains are also common, especially if only one shoulder strap is used. Sharp objects such as pens and pencils can stick through the backpack causing injury as well.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to prevent injuries:

Choose the right backpack to fit your child. It should cover no more than three-fourths of the child’s back. It should be lightweight with wide, padded shoulder straps that do not dig into the shoulders. A waist strap helps distribute the weight evenly. A padded back adds comfort and helps protect against sharp objects sticking through the pack. A lumbar cushion helps to redistribute weight to the legs, improving posture.

The maximum weight of a loaded backpack should not exceed 15 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight. Load the pack carefully with the heaviest items close to the center of the child’s back. Do not pack unnecessary items to keep the load as light as possible.

Teach your child to lift heavy objects – such as the backpack – by bending at the knees. While wearing the pack, your child should bed at the knees, not at the waist.

Make sure your child is wearing the pack correctly by using both shoulder straps and the waist strap.

Some schools allow rolling backpacks, but remember they have to be lifted over steps and onto buses.

If you have more questions or concerns, contact your physician. For more information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website or the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website.