Take the Load Off Your Child's Back

To avoid injuries, watch backpack weight and fit, expert suggests

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THURSDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A backpack can be a great help to school children, but it needs to fit properly to avoid a lifetime of hurt, health-care professionals say.

"If too heavy or worn incorrectly, backpacks can strain muscles and joints and cause serious back pain," Paula Kramer, who chairs the occupational therapy department at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, warned in a news release from the university.

Backpack-related injuries resulted in 7,300 emergency room visits in 2006, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Kramer offered tips for buying and using backpacks:

  • The backpack size should correlate with the child's size and age -- smaller, younger children should have smaller backpacks. Look for reflective material on the backpack to improve visibility and padded shoulder straps for added comfort.
  • Consider buying a backpack that can be wheeled or a triangular sling-style bag, which is worn over one shoulder and across the body, which better balances the load.
  • When loading the backpack, put heaviest items closest to the back. This helps distribute weight more evenly. When loaded, the backpack should weigh less than 10 to 15 percent of the child's body weight.
  • Adjust shoulder straps so the backpack fits snugly against the back. The child should always use both should straps and clip the waist belt, if the backpack has one, for added support and even weight distribution.

More information

The American Occupational Therapy Association has more about backpack safety.

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