Backpacks are convenient for students, but they can pose a threat to kids’ backs, necks and shoulders if used improperly, an expert says.
In 2013, there were more than 5,400 backpack-related injuries treated in emergency departments across the United States, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“In my own practice, I have noticed a marked increase in the number of young children who are complaining about back, neck and shoulder pain,” Scott Bautch, of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Occupational Health, said in an association news release.
“The first question I ask these patients is, ‘Do you carry a backpack to school?’ Almost always, the answer is ‘yes,'” he said.
A backpack should weigh no more than 5 to 10 percent of a child’s weight. And, the backpack should never be wider or longer than the child’s torso, Bautch advised. Backpacks also should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline.
Backpacks need wide, padded and adjustable shoulder straps, and children should always use both straps when wearing a backpack, Bautch said.
It’s also important for a backpack to have a padded back. This improves comfort and also protects the child from sharp edges on pencils, rulers, books and other school supplies inside the pack.
Select a backpack with several separate compartments, which will make it easier to position the contents more effectively. Place pointy or bulky items away from the area that rests on the child’s back.
One way to limit a backpack’s weight is to ask your child’s teacher if it’s possible for the youngster to leave the heaviest books and electronic items such as laptop computers at school, and take home only lighter handout materials, Bautch said.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about backpack safety.