When you move your child’s backpack after he or she drops it at the door, does it feel like it contains 40 pounds of rocks? Maybe you’ve noticed your child struggling to put it on, bending forward while carrying it, or complaining of tingling or numbness. If you’ve been concerned about the effects that extra weight might have on your child’s still-growing body, your instincts are correct. Backpacks that are too heavy can cause a lot of problems for kids, like back and shoulder pain, and poor posture. Did you know that according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, injuries from heavy backpacks result in more than 7,000 emergency room visits per year. Sprains, strains, and “overuse” injuries were among the top complaints.
When selecting a backpack, look for:
- An ergonomic design
- The correct size: never wider or longer than your child’s torso and never hanging more than 4 inches below the waist
- Padded back and shoulder straps
- Hip and chest belts to help transfer some of the weight to the hips and torso
- Multiple compartments to better distribute the weight
- Compression straps on the sides or bottom to stabilize the contents
- Reflective material
Backpack Safety Tips:
- Your backpack should weigh only 15% – 20% of your total weight
- Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed
- Tighten the straps to keep the load closer to the back
- Organize items and pack heavier things low and towards the center
- Remove items if the backpack is too heavy and only carry items necessary for the day
- Lift properly by bending at the knees when picking up a backpack
Remember: A roomy backpack may seem like a good idea, but the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it. Make sure your child uses both straps when carrying the backpack. Using one strap shifts the weight to one side and causes muscle pain and posture problems.
Help your child determine what is absolutely necessary to carry. If it’s not essential, leave it at home.