Ill-fitting backpacks may put school children at risk for muscle injuries as well as back, neck and shoulder pain, experts warn.
“Heavy duty backpacks must be worn and used correctly in order to avoid injuries such as strains, sprains and posture problems,” said orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Nitin Khanna, an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons spokesperson.
“Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back. Roller bags are also a good option, if easily used at your child’s school,” Khanna said in an academy news release.
Between their textbooks and electronic gear, backpacks can easily weigh a kid down. Doctors and hospitals in the United States treated 10,000 children between the ages of 5 and 18 years for backpack-related injuries in 2015, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Many of those injuries are avoidable, Khanna said. Here, she offers some safety tips:
When lifting backpacks, children should bend at the knees. They should carry only items they need for the day, and stop at their locker throughout the day to drop off heavier books.
Teach kids to place heavier items low and toward the center of the backpack, Khanna advised.
The backpack should be an appropriate size for the child. If it seems too heavy, have your children carry some books in their arms, to reduce the load on the back.
Ask children if they have numbness or tingling in their arms or legs. This may indicate that a backpack is a poor fit or is too heavy.
The U.S. National Safety Council has more on school backpack safety.