It’s back-to-school season, which means it’s time for parents to go over school safety tips with their kids. Most parents are already aware of the basics: don’t talk to strangers, look both ways before crossing the street, and so on. However, many probably don’t know about the dangers of heavy backpacks. That’s right – if your child is lugging around too heavy a load, then he or she could potentially get injured.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPC), more than 14,000 children sustain backpack-related injuries each year. Ideally, children should be wearing backpacks that weigh less than 10-15 percent of their body weight, but this isn’t always the case. The weight of school supplies and textbooks – which typically weight 3.5 lbs each – can quickly add up.
“Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints and can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems,” said Daniel Green, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).
While it’s relatively uncommon for backpack-related injuries to send kids to the emergency room, overweight loads can cause persistent strains and pain in the neck, back, and shoulder area. The possible effects of heavy backpacks are as follows:
- Shoulders – When a kid carries an overweight load on his or her shoulders, joints and muscles can get tight, potentially creating a strain.
- Neck and Upper Back – A heavy backpack can cause a child to develop a forward head posture with extended neck, leading to muscle and ligament issues, especially in the neck and shoulder areas.
- Lower Back and Hips – A heavy load on the back naturally causes the body to bend forward as a compensatory physical mechanism. This can contribute to soreness in the hips as well as pain in the lower and mid back.
- Knees – Changes in walking pattern and body posture caused by an overweight backpack can cause knee pain to develop.
Fortunately, preventing backpack-related injuries is as simple as purchasing the right backpack. When selecting one for your kid(s), look for the following features:
- Material is made of more lightweight fabric.
- When the backpack is put on, there is minimal space between the back and the pack itself.
- The pack is the length of the torso and its bottom is located two inches below the waist.
- A thick waist strap is available to help distribute the weight.
- There are multiple compartments to help distribute the weight of contents.
You can help further reduce the risk of backpack-related injuries by encouraging your children to drop off heavy books and other materials at their locker between classes. You may even buy them a wheeled rolling backpack if you want them to avoid carrying back weight altogether.
The personal injury attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm hope you and your children have a wonderful, fulfilling, and safe time this upcoming school season!