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8/15/17blog post

is your child’s backpack a safety hazard?

6 tips for choosing the right backpack

When choosing a backpack, a child may  be more concerned with look and style  rather than comfort and functionality. As  the school year approaches and  backpacks go on sale, it is a good time  to consider not only the style, but also  the  health and safety concerns that  could  surround your backpack  purchase.

Backpacks that are too heavy can  increase the strain on the lower back,  resulting in pain. Heavy backpacks can  cause children to roll their shoulders forward. The head also moves forward, causing tension in the neck and can even trigger headaches.

“The pain doesn’t always show up right away,” says Michael Breneman, PT, DPT, physical therapist at Dayton Children’s. “For children who are going back to school in the early fall, pain from their heavy backpack can often start at the end of September and early October.”

Heavy backpacks can also shift a child’s center of gravity, throwing him or her off balance and resulting in a potential fall.

When purchasing and packing a backpack, consider these six tips:

  1. A filled backpack should be no more than 15 percent of your child’s body weight.
  2. Choose strap backpacks over messenger bags or shoulder bags.
  3. The lower, bottom portion of the backpack should hit at the arch of the back, not going below the belt line.
  4. The heaviest item should be closest to the wearer’s body, the lightest item should be placed farthest away.
  5. Assist your child in cleaning out and weighing his or her backpack every seasonal break. Weigh the backpack and start fresh.
  6. If your child experiences back pain due to a heavy backpack, encourage him or her to bend the knees and set the bag on a desk before putting it on his or her back.

Breneman also urges parents to consider the risks of pain and injury of rolling backpacks. Rolling backpacks can also become very heavy, causing the child to bend forward or to the side, resulting in pain. Children will often times hoist rolling backpacks up steps, also predisposing them to potential injury.

It is also important to mention that kids experiencing intense or chronic pain due to heavy backpacks may be missing out on important activities. The pain may keep them from after-school activities, sports and other social opportunities that are important to their growth and development.

Picking your child’s backpack can be a fun experience! Use these tips to determine what backpacks are safe and functional, then let them choose the style and color that expresses their personality. You will be one step closer to an excellent and safe school year!