The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that every year more than 14,000 children are treated for backpack injuries and approximately 5,000 children are seen specifically in the emergency room for such injuries. Heavy backpacks can not only cause back injuries, but also aggravate any pre-existing scoliosis. Such injuries may result in your child being absent from school and unable to engage in physical education classes and extra-curricular activities. A physician can evaluate your child to determine whether he or she is especially at risk for backpack injuries due to weakness, tight back muscles, and lack of good posture. Parents can help prevent backpack injuries by doing the following:
- Purchase a padded backpack that has two wide and padded shoulder straps, a padded waist or chest belt, several separate compartments, and a metal frame or wheels. This will serve to distribute the weight and provide support and protection.
- Make sure your child’s backpack is not wider than his or her body.
- Encourage your child to transport only necessary books and items in his or her backpack.
- Position the heaviest items near the back of the backpack and see that the weight does not cause the backpack to fall below your child’s pant line.
- Place the backpack on a scale after loading to ensure that it weighs less than 15% of your child’s weight.
- Teach your child the proper way to lift his or her backpack – by bending the knees, grasping the backpack with both hands, and lifting the backpack up to the shoulders.
- Facilitate lower back and abdominal muscle strengthening in your child by placing him or her in weight training or yoga classes.