Backpacks are a popular and effective way for kids to carry their books to and from school, but an overloaded or improperly worn backpack may be more harmful than good. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 3,400 children ages 5 to 14 visited emergency rooms with backpack related injuries in 1999.

The backpack is better than a hand held bag or shoulder bag because the properly worn back- pack takes the weight of the books and evenly distributes it over one of the strongest areas of our body, the trunk.

The problems start when the backpack:

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has come out with some guidelines to help protect your children from backpack related injuries. Injuries that can be more than just a nuisance, they can lead to life long impairments of the back, neck and shoulders. When choosing your child's backpack for the upcoming school year, please consider these guidelines to help reduce the risk of injury due to improper use of a backpack:

  1. Wear Both Straps:
    Slinging a backpack over one shoulder causes a person to lean to one side to compensate for the uneven weight. This leaning to one side can cause a curving of the spine. Over time, this can cause lower and upper back pain, strains of the shoulders and neck, and even a functional scoliosis. Teenage girls are especially susceptible to scoliosis.
  2. Make Sure The Backpack Isn't Too Heavy:
    Students of all ages seem to be carrying heavier loads, often toting a full day's worth of textbooks and a change of clothing for after school activities. It is recommended that a student put no more than 20% of their body weight into the backpack. For example, if your child weighs 75 pounds, their loaded backpack should weigh no more than 15 pounds. This is very important because even if worn properly, too much weight in the backpack will cause he child to lean forward in order to compensate for the added weight. This leaning forward can affect the natural curve in the low back, cause an increased upper back curvature, and cause a forward rounding of their shoulders. All of these can become significant problems with continued overloading of the backpack.
  3. Get A Backpack With Wide Shoulder Straps:
    Narrow straps tend to dig into the collarbone area of the shoulders, especially if overloaded. This can impair circulation to the child's arms as well as cause damage to the many nerves in the area. Often a child will complain of numbness and/or tingling in their arms if the straps are digging into their shoulders. Over an extended period of time, weakness in the hands may develop.
  4. Get A Backpack With A Waist Belt:
    Using a waist belt will help to distribute the weight of the pack more evenly easing the stresses on the neck and shoulders.
  5. Get A Backpack With Two Shoulder Straps:
    Some backpacks have only one shoulder strap ,which focuses all of the weight of the pack onto that one side of the body. Two shoulder straps will not only distribute the weight more evenly, but will prevent the child from leaning to one side to compensate for the weight on one shoulder.
  6. Consider The Weight Of the Backpack Itself:
    When purchasing a backpack assess the weight of it empty. If it feels heavy empty, imagine how heavy it will feel when textbooks are placed into the pack. Canvas bags are a strong lighter weight material while leather bags tend to be quite heavy for a child.

Childhood injuries are already an all to often occurrence. By purchasing a properly designed, proper fitting backpack and making certain your child knows how to use the backpack, you can reduce their risk of neck, back, and shoulder injuries – injuries that can follow them into adulthood.


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