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Backpack Safety Tips



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Backpack Safety Tips

By Susan Coney

Back to school means back to toting around heavy, cumbersome backpacks. Anxious to have every item necessary to be successful in school, students often overload backpacks, which can result in a number of problems.

According to the American Chiropractic Association children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations due to the use of overly heavy backpacks. Weighty backpacks can cause a child to hyperextend or lean forward to compensate for the overload. Also wearing a backpack over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side in order to compensate for the additional weight, which over a period of time can cause curvature of the spine, especially in a growing body. Remember to bend at the knees to pick up the backpack. Always put the backpack straps on one at a time; never sling the pack over your shoulder.

The American Physical Therapy Association recommends that children carry backpacks that are no more than 15 percent of their body weight. A child weighing 50 pounds should tote a backpack weighing no more than 7.5 pounds. A 100-pound student should carry no more than 15 pounds on his or her back. If a backpack forces the child to bend forward in order to carry it, it is overloaded. Parents and teachers should encourage children to carry only what is absolutely necessary. Students should pack only what is needed that day. If need be, carry a book or two by hand to relieve the load and redistribute the weight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses that students organize the backpack, placing heavier items closest to the center of the back. Use all of the compartments to evenly distribute the weight. Backpacks with waist straps help carry the load more securely and may help with balance.

When purchasing a backpack make sure that it made is of sturdy, lightweight material. Two wide, padded shoulder straps are important; and a padded back helps protect the child from sharp or protruding objects. The width of the backpack should not be greater than the child’s torso. Parents may want to consider a rolling backpack; however you should check the school’s policy to make sure that they are allowed. Also keep in mind that the child will still need to lift the pack up stairs and it may be cumbersome in the snow.

Also, keep backpacks off the floors and clear of walkways to prevent the possibility of someone tripping over the bag. Never swing a backpack and make sure that pens, pencils, and sharp objects are stored in a safe spot so they do not poke through and injure someone.

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