According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission over 3,000 children (ages 5 to 18) were treated for backpack related injuries in 2014. One of the contributing issues is weight of the backpack. Researchers have reported seeing some backpacks weigh more than 40% of body weight which is hugely over the recommended limit of 10%. Other issues include the fit of the backpack and the way it is carried.
As your kids return to school, we thought we’d look at how you can help educate them and prevent backpack injuries:
- Choose the backpack carefully. We know that kids and teenagers worry about being judged but practically must win out here. Choose a backpack that has wide (preferably padded straps) and comes with a waist strap. The waist strap helps with maintaining balance and takes the load off of the neck and shoulder muscles;
- Make sure that the backpack is the right size. The bag should end above the waist (around two inches). The lower the backpack hangs below the waist the more work the shoulders have to do and the more it throws the posture off;
- It might be hip to wear a backpack over one shoulder but this puts pressure on one side of the body, leading to muscle spasms, neck and lower back strains. Ensure your child uses both straps and that they are fitted snug so the bag doesn’t hang backwards, away from the body, pulling posture out of alignment;
- Work out how to get the weight of the bag to 10% of your child’s body weight. Ideas include only carrying what’s needed for that day, making more frequent trips to the locker, or investing in a second set of the most commonly used books;
- If there is no way of reducing the number of items needed, then consider using a roller bag instead;
- Teach your kids how to pack the bag with the heavier books closest to the spine. This will allow for better posture;
- Even with the backpack is around the 10% body-weight it’s a good idea to bend from the knees when lifting the backpack. This will reduce unnecessary strain on the back muscles.
As well as hurting the muscles in the body, a heavy and ill-fitting backpack can throw your child’s balance off making them more prone to tripping – not good with a school full of stairs.