Did you know that there are almost 5,000 injuries reported each year from backpack usage? According to the journal Pediatrics (2003), the majority of these injuries are caused by carrying a backpack (59%), followed by tripping (28%) and getting hit (13%) by backpacks. For the most part, these injuries can be prevented by teaching our children proper backpack safety techniques.
- Distribute the weight evenly with the biggest, heaviest items in the rear of the backpack, nearest your back.
- Wear both shoulder straps unless the pack is designed for use on one shoulder. When children carry a heavy backpack using one strap, it creates an imbalance which can lead to neck and muscle spasms, lower back pain and improper walking patterns.
- Choose backpacks with heavily padded shoulder straps. The shoulder straps prevent excessive compression on the shoulder joints and collar bone.
- Choose a backpack with a lumbar cushion, which will evenly distribute the weight and help maintain an upright standing posture.
- Lift the pack correctly, making sure to bend at the knees.
- Carry only what is needed with the backpack weighing less than 15% of the child’s weight.
By following these simple rules, children can help to prevent spinal damage.
Although there are no long-term studies to determine the effects of repetitive, excessive weight on the back, we do know that it affects posture and muscular balance. When the backpack weighs greater than 15% of the child’s weight, the student must lean forward to maintain balance, which causes postural changes. The child’s chest muscles tighten, shoulders roll forward, and they cannot breathe correctly. The lower back is forced to take on the excessive weight. It even changes the length of their walk because they must take smaller steps to maintain balance.
Talk with your child or children regarding backpack safety. The more knowledge we share with them, the healthier they will become as they grow. Make sure you are checking the contents of their backpack occasionally. By only carrying necessary items, children are in less danger of injury. And set a good example by implementing these rules to the loads that you are carrying.