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Backpack Safety

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Jasco Scrubs


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Welcome BACK to school!

It's that time of year again when the kids are heading back to school...have you bought their backpacks yet? Do you know what to look for when purchasing a backback to ensure proper fit and safety for your child? If not... then read on! Backpacks are a common way for kids today to carry books and homework to and from school. Worn properly, they are an excellent way to carry needed items. Worn incorrectly, they can be a cause of neck or back pain, muscle strain or injury, joint pain and improper posture. The following are guidelines to help you choose the right backpack and help prevent injury. Choose the right backpack: Look for the following when choosing a backpack: Correct size: the bottom of the backpack should fall right at waist height. Choose the size of the pack according to the size of the child. It may not always be possible to find a pack that fits perfectly, but try to get close! Wide, padded shoulder straps: If straps are too narrow, they can dig into the shoulder area causing pain and decreasing circulation into the arms. Two shoulder straps: despite their new popularity, backpacks that have only one strap and are worn across the body do not evenly distribute weight. Padded Back: a padded back protects bony prominences, increases comfort and decreases risk of injury from objects inside the pack. Waist Strap: a waist strap helps to distribute weight more evenly. Compartments: allow weight to be more evenly distributed throughout the pack. Compression Straps: help stabilize items, keep close to the back and distribute weight more evenly. Lightweight: the backpack itself should not be adding much to the weight of the load Reflective Material: helps make your child more visible to drivers in low light Rolling: a rolling pack has pros and cons. For a student carrying a heavy load, rolling may be easier. However, a rolling pack still needs to be carried up and down stairs and may not roll well outside over some surfaces. Make sure that the handle is long enough that the child is not twisting or bending to roll the pack.

Warning signs that the backpack is too heavy:

  • Watch for the follwing:
    • Changes in posture while wearing the backpack (leaning forwards, backwards or to one side)
    • Child struggles while putting pack on or taking pack off
    • Any complaints of pain while wearing the backpack
    • Complaints of tingling or numbness in arms
    • Red marks on shoulders, chest or back

To prevent injury while wearing a backpack: Consider the following guidelines: Always use both shoulder straps: wearing a backpack on one shoulder can strain muscles and may increase curvature of the spine. Tighten the straps: this will keep the pack close to the body and the bottom right at waist height. Use the correct weight: A backpack should be 15% of a child's body weight.

Child's Weight / Safe Pack Load

  • 50 lbs. / 7.5 lbs.
  • 75 lbs. / 11.25 lbs.
  • 100 lbs. / 15.0 lbs.
  • 125 lbs. / 18.75 lbs.
  • 150 lbs. / 22.5 lbs.
  • 175 lbs. / 26.25 lbs.

    Organize the backpack: pack the largest / heaviest items closest to the center of the pack. Use all of the compartments to help distribute the weight evenly. Lighten the load: Try and organize the day so that frequent stops at a locker are possible. Carry ONLY those books needed. Carry extra books on arms across chest if pack is full. Lift with knees: Learn the proper way to lift the backpack on and off of the body. Bend and squat using knees, rather than bending at the waist. Do NOT "sling" the pack up and over a shoulder, rather carefully place each arm into the pack straps.

    Patient Resources



    Megan Hubbard, DPT © 2005   |  disclaimer   |