At What Point is a Child’s Backpack Too Heavy?
Orthopaedic surgeons share safety tips as kids head back to school
As kids return to school this August, don’t wait for them to complain about back pain. Instead pay attention to their posture and keep an attentive eye on all of the items that are loaded into their backpack each day.
Experts recommend that kids carry no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 13,700 kids, ages 5-18 years old, were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries related to backpacks.
“When used correctly, backpacks can be a good way to carry the necessities of the school day,” said orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Melanie Kinchen, MD. “Backpack injuries are commonly caused by wearing overloaded backpacks, as well as lifting and carrying them incorrectly. Parents and teachers should guide kids to take preventative measures. Start by choosing a backpack that is appropriately sized for your child or have them use a rolling backpack as an alternative to carrying their heavy load on their shoulders.”
AAOS SAFETY TIPS
The Academy recommends the following safety tips to help eliminate pain and discomfort due to backpacks:
- Always use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed.
- Tighten the straps and use waist strap if the bag has one.M
- Remove or organize items if too heavy and place biggest items closest to the back.
- Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up a backpack.
- Carry only those items that are required for the day; leave books at home or school, if possible.
- Keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.
Parents also can help with backpack-related pain:
- Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack, like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
- Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child and look for any changes in your child’s posture when he or she wears the backpack.
- Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle. Do not ignore red marks on the shoulders if your child or teenager expresses discomfort.
- Talk to the school about lightening the load. Keep the load under 10-15 percent of the child’s bodyweight.
- Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day.
Teachers can help by following these tips:
- When planning lessons, take into consideration ways to lighten a child’s backpack load.
- Allow enough time for kids to stop by their lockers to drop off books.
More tips: Backpack safety