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Return to School: Backpack Safety

posted on: Oct 15th, 2017 category:community, news

Backpack Buying and Wearing Tips

by Jennifer T. Field, PT, DPT

It’s that time of year again and more than 40 million children are carrying their books and school supplies to and from school in a backpack.

Carrying a backpack to school each day may seem harmless enough, but heavy loads can potentially cause back, neck, or shoulder pain. The following are tips and suggestions to help your child choose, wear, and pack his or her bag to prevent injuries according to the National Safety Council.

Backpack Buying tips

Pick a backpack with only enough room for necessary items; a backpack that is wider or longer than your child’s torso is too big.

Choose safety and comfort features such as wide, padded shoulder straps and a soft or padded back, to reduce pressure and enhance comfort specifically in the shoulders and neck (where nerves and blood vessels run).

Hip and chest belts are essential to transfer a backpack’s weight from the back and shoulders to the hips and torso, particularly for students carrying a lot of books.

Lightweight packs with multiple compartments help distribute the weight and keep items easily accessible.

Compression straps on the sides and bottom of the backpack stabilize and compress the contents so that the items are close to the back, causing less stress on a child’s back.

Reflective material makes it easier for drivers to see the child while walking at night or in the early morning.

Backpack Wearing Tips

Both shoulder straps should always be worn. Wearing a pack over one shoulder can cause your child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.

Adjust the shoulder straps for the pack to fit snugly along your child’s back.

Wear the waist belt to distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.

The bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the low back and should be no lower than four inches below the waist.

The backpack should not be more than 10-15% of a child’s body weight. A child who weighs 75 pounds should not wear a backpack heavier than 11 pounds.

Backpack loading Tips

Pack only necessary daily items; arrange books and materials so they will not slide around.

The heaviest items, like textbooks or laptops, should be placed toward the back of the pack (closest to the trunk when wearing).

Decrease the load by hand-carrying a book on days the backpack is too heavy.

Consider using a rolling backpack if the school requires multiple books and your child’s backpack is too heavy. See rolling bags section

Other Bag Styles

Shoulder bags

Shoulder bags put less stress on shoulders and neck when cycling because the bag is resting on the lower back.

Shoulder bags are better if worn across the body diagonally. This positions the strap at an angle to place the load more through the natural center of gravity.

Rolling bags

This type of bag may pose a tripping hazard for children when walking in tight classroom spaces.

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