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A Safe School Year Starts With a Good Backpack

With a new school year on the horizon, many parents are beginning to shop for back-to-school items like clothes, shoes, binders, notebooks and backpacks. With ever-increasing schoolwork loads, many students suffer from strain and other injuries associated with carrying bags that are either too heavy, not fitted properly, or both. Numerous solutions exist to make certain your child excels in school without hurting his or her back and shoulders.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 14,000 children are treated for backpack related injuries every year. Poorly fitted backpacks can aggravate existing conditions like scoliosis (curvature of the spine), muscle strain and stress fractures. It is important to note that heavy backpacks cannot cause scoliosis. Knee, hip, neck and joint pain have also been associated with heavy backpack usage.

Features of a Good Backpack

The best place to start in making sure your child's back is protected is with the backpack itself. Safe backpack features include:

  • Two wide, padded shoulder straps,
  • A padded back,
  • A waist strap,
  • Lightweight.

Shoulder straps should be adjusted to allow the backpack to rest evenly in the middle of the back. Backpacks should not extend below the lower back. Make sure the shoulder straps allow the arms freedom of movement. If the straps are too tight, numbness in the arms or hands may result. Backpacks should be easy for children to put on and take off and should not extend beyond the low back.

The waist strap is one of the most important features of a good backpack because it takes weight off the shoulders. The thicker the waist strap; the better.

How Much a Backpack Should Weigh

The weight of backpacks is another important consideration when preventing back injuries. Most experts agree the maximum weight of a backpack should not exceed 10-15% of the child's bodyweight. For example, a 90-pound child's backpack should not weigh more than 13.5 lbs. Students should only carry items and books that are necessary for each day's class and home work. Encourage your children to clean out their backpacks once a week. If students have a particularly heavy workload, they can carry extra books in their arms to evenly distribute the weight.

Backpacks with multiple compartments allow children to evenly distribute weight across their back as well. Put heavy items like books closer and lower to the body with lighter supplies like notebooks or binders closer to the outside of the pack.

How to Spot Proper Posture

Proper posture when carrying a backpack is not only important for overall body health but can be an indicator of the effectiveness and weight of the bag. Children should be able to stand up straight and walk upright when wearing a backpack. If your son or daughter is slouching, bent at the hip and/or have their head jutted forward out of line with their body, check the weight and fit of their backpack.

Following these guidelines, parents can make sure their children have a productive and safe school year.

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