Backpack safety can prevent injuries

August 27, 2013 

Trips and falls on the playground may account for the majority of injuries that send school children to the nurse's office. But backpacks cause their fair share of injuries as well.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries per year. Children routinely carry more than the recommended weight in school backpacks and, compounding the problem, also carry their bags incorrectly.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical agencies recommend that a child's backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20% of the child's body weight. However, this figure should be adjusted based on a child's fitness level and strength. That means that the average seven-year-old second grader who weighs between 55 and 60 pounds should be carrying no more than 11 to 12 pounds in his or her backpack. A backpack that is too heavy may cause

Red marks on the shoulders or back from the straps

Tingling or numbness in the arms and back

Canges in posture when wearing the backpack, and

Pain anywhere in the back.

To compound these problems, which also may include nerve damage resulting from pressure on nerves in the shoulders, children should lighten their loads and carry backpacks correctly. The following tips are some additional ways youngsters can prevent backpack-related injuries.

Carry only necessary items. Children should only carry what is required for that particular school day in their backpacks. If teachers routinely have students carry home many heavy books, parents can consult with the teachers to see if there are other options.

Distribute weight evenly. Items in the backpack should be spread out to distribute the weight across the entire back. Heavier items should be at the bottom of the pack.

Use both straps. Using only one strap shifts the backpack weight to one side, causing the back and shoulders to strain. Many orthopedists have reported treating children with back or shoulder pain as the result of carrying backpacks incorrectly.

Choose the correct backpack size. The size of the backpack should match the scale of the child and should rest evenly in the middle of the child's back.

Lift safely. Children should lift their backpacks by bending their knees and lifting to protect their backs.

There are some safety features parents can look for when purchasing backpacks. A padded back reduces pressure on the muscles and can be more comfortable, while compression straps make the backpack more sturdy. Additionally, reflective material on the backpack can make the child more visible to motorists.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service