The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that approximately 28,000 individuals in the United States were treated for backpack related injuries last year alone. Unfortunately, 3,203 of those individuals were children between the ages of 5 and 18 whose injuries resulted in emergency room visits. Common backpack related injuries included neck, back and shoulder issues resulting in a staggering $851 million in medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and legal liability. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to help ensure that your child doesn’t join these statistics as he or she returns to school this year.
Tips to Help Avoid Backpack Related Injuries
- Select the Right Backpack: Look for backpacks with wide, padded straps. Narrow straps and those that are not padded can cut into your child’s shoulders; causing pain and sometimes cutting off circulation. If your child must carry a significant amount of supplies and books consider a backpack with wheels. Additionally, select a backpack with multiple compartments to distribute the weight of the contents more evenly.
- Limit Contents: Most backpack related injuries are caused from carrying a backpack that is too heavy. Be sure your child’s backpack only contains items that are necessary and encourage the use of lockers to store items that don’t need to be transported. It is recommended that your child’s backpack weigh no more than 15% of your child’s body weight. If you can’t reduce the weight of the backpack to meet the recommended guidelines, consider a wheeled bag instead.
- Proper Wear: One of the reasons that backpacks are considered a safer solution than briefcases or satchels is that they distribute the weight of the contents more evenly. Reduce the chances of backpack related injury by encouraging your child to wear the straps of the backpack over both shoulders. Failing to do so could result in pain, and in severe cases, a condition called “scapular winging”.
- Lifting Correctly: It is vital to your child’s safety that you teach him or her to lift a backpack properly. Lifting even a lightweight backpack incorrectly can result in back pain or injury. Teach your child to bend at the knees instead of the waist whenever possible.
As your child returns to school, and throughout the school year, be sure to watch for signs of potential backpack related injuries. If your child seems to slouch, leans to one side, or complains of back, neck, or shoulder pain or numbness, it’s time to make a change.