Parents and kids should consider lightening backpacks to help avoid backpack-related injuries, urge The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA).
Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of load among some of the body's strongest muscles. However, if not worn correctly, backpacks can cause injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 28,600 individuals were treated in hospitals and doctors' offices for injuries related to backpacks in 2013, and more than 8,500 of those injuries were kids 5-18 years old.
AdvertisementEXPERT ADVICE: "Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints and can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems," said orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Daniel Green, MD. "Parents and teachers should educate kids on the proper way to wear a backpack to reduce the risk of injury."
BACKPACK SAFETY TIPS: AAOS and POSNA recommend the following tips to help eliminate discomfort and reduce the risk of backpack-related injuries.
Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back. A crossbody bag can also be a good alternative.
Remove or organize items if too heavy and pack the heavier things low and towards the center.
When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.
School backpacks are for schoolwork. Carry only those items that are required for the day. If possible, leave books at home or school.
At home and at school, 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 numbness or tingling in the arms or legs which may indicate poor fit or too much weight being carried.
If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease load on the back.
Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child.
Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle.
Encourage your child to stop at their locker throughout the day, as time permits, to drop off heavier books.