LEWISBURG, Tenn. — Area schools are back in session and Marshall Medical Center (MMC) wants parents and students to know some tips about backpack safety. Backpacks are an important part of the back-to-school routine for young people, but serious health effects can occur for children whose backpacks are too heavy or worn improperly, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA).
“Backpacks are great for transporting books and school supplies, but there is an increased risk of injury to children who carry heavy items in backpacks that are not used properly,” said Dr. William See III, a pediatrician on the MMC staff. “Back strain and fatigue can occur when backpacks are too heavy and spinal alignment can be affected when loads are not balanced.”
- Always use both shoulder straps. Use of one strap causes one side of the body to bear the weight of the backpack, which can strain muscles and may increase curvature of the spine.
- Position the backpack over the strongest mid-back muscles. The back and abdominal muscles work together to stabilize the trunk of the body and keep proper postural alignment. Adjust the straps so that the pack is close to the body and rests in the middle of the back.
- Lighten the load. A backpack should be no more than 10 to 15 percent of a child’s bodyweight. Carry only those items that are needed during certain parts of the day, planning multiple trips to the locker to change out items.
- Organize the backpack. Place the heaviest items closest to the center of the back. Use the compartments to help distribute weight evenly.
- When picking up the backpack, lift with the knees. Bend and squat using the knees instead of bending at the waist.