Most children and teenagers carry their schoolbooks and other supplies in backpacks during the school year. "When used correctly, backpacks are the most efficient way to carry a load and distribute the weight among some of the body's strongest muscles," says Eric Wall, MD, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery.
"However, parents need to carefully select a backpack to ensure that they are comfortable and do not cause injury," he says.
Doctors in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center recommend these simple guidelines to prevent any unnecessary injuries throughout the school year:
•Look for a backpack that is lightweight -- no more than 15-20 percent of body weight. It needs to have two wide and padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back, and waist straps.
•Encourage children to use both shoulder straps and make sure the straps are tight.
•Organize supplies and books so that the heaviest items are closest to the center of the back and all compartments are used.
•Persuade children to stop at their lockers often so they're not carrying all of their books throughout the day.
•Remind children to bend using both knees when lifting a backpack.
•Remind children to not leave backpacks on the floor where others can trip over them, and not to swing them around where they may hit others.
Back and shoulder discomfort is common with heavy backpack use. If children complain of persistent back pain, consult with their pediatrician or family physician.
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center