Back to School Backpack Basics
Injury Care & Prevention Sep 11, 2015
Back to School Backpack Basics

September means the end of summer vacation and back to school for most children across the country. As students are getting ready for the upcoming school year, one health concern that can arise is the weight of the backpack. Though the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSC) estimates that over 7,000 children are treated each year for back injuries caused by backpacks, kids aren’t the only victims. In fact, more than 20 thousand adults were also treated for backpack-related injuries.

Bigger isn’t better

Most people make the mistake of buying a backpack that is too large. Buying your child a properly sized backpack can be a challenge but whether it is for an adult or a kid, the backpack should not be higher or wider than the shoulders and should not be lower than the hips.

Carrying only the essentials

The backpack and contents should never weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of the body weight. For younger children, it is better to err on the lighter side. One way to cut down on the weight besides just carrying the essentials is to select backpacks based on the construction and materials. Nylon is a much of lighter material and will weigh less than heavier materials like leather.

Shifting the load

Wearing a backpack slung over on one shoulder causes an imbalance in weight distribution and can lead to shoulders and back strain. When purchasing a backpack, make sure the straps are wide enough (2 inches or more) and can be worn comfortably on over both shoulders. For those who prefer a single-shoulder bag, consider a “sling” bag that balances more of the weight across your chest.

If your child starts having shoulder or back pain, feel tingling or numbness in their arms, or you notice that your child has to alter his posture to carry his backpack, check to make sure the backpack fits correctly. If the problems don’t resolve themselves after adjustment, please consult your healthcare provider.