Backpack Safety Tips
Posted on 9/26/2018 by Anne Marie Muto, OTR/L, CHT
Now that students have a few weeks of school under their belts, their backpacks – which were relatively light from a few school supplies – are now filling up. Not only are children feeling the weight of nightly homework, but also the weight of their book, binder and electronic-filled backpacks.
Aside from considering the right cartoon character/super-hero, color and cool factor, the backpack should also be the right fit. In honor of National School Backpack Awareness Day, here are few things to keep in mind when picking out a backpack:
The width should be about the same size as the student; the length should be no longer than the torso (trunk or central part of the body) and not hang more than four inches below the waist. Remember to check the bag each year, especially for younger children who are experiencing growth spurts.
Select a backpack that has a padded back, two padded shoulder straps and a waist strap to help evenly distribute the weight from the shoulders to the body’s core and hips. The extra padding will help protect students’ neck and shoulders which are rich in blood vessels and nerves and when constricted can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands.
Finally, choose a backpack that is light-weight and has multiple compartments which can help distribute the weight more evenly. It’s also a good idea to think about picking a backpack with reflective material or adding reflective tape for younger students.
After picking out the perfect backpack, students should also be reminded on how to properly wear and pack their “shoulder shadow.”
Always wear both shoulder straps to distribute the weight evenly. Using one only shoulder strap can cause too much leaning and threaten to curve the spine.
Adjust the shoulder straps so the pack fits snugly across their back. When possible, pack lightly and carry only items that are required for the day.
Never allow a student to carry more than 15 percent of their body weight. For example, if a child weighs 100 pounds, the backpack should not weight more than 15 pounds.
When organizing the content of the backpack, distribute the weight evenly by packing the heaviest items toward to the center and lower portion of the bag to keep the weight off their shoulders.
Finally, here are a few tips to keep in mind to help lighten the load:
Ask if textbooks are available digitally, or if extra books are available to leave at home.
Consider having a “homework box” at home that contains schools supplies (pens, pencils, ruler, markers, highlighters, etc.) to reduce the amount of unwanted weight in a backpack.
Encourage kids to use their locker or desk frequently throughout the day instead of carrying an entire day’s worth of books. Only bring home the books which are truly required for homework or studying each night.
Pick up the backpack using proper lifting techniques, encouraging students to bend at their knees and use both of their hands when lifting the bag to their shoulders. It may not be a bad idea for students to participate in back-strengthening exercises to assist in building up muscles required to carry a backpack.
We hope you have a fun and healthy year at school! Happy learning!
By: Anne Marie Muto, OTR/L, CHT, from NovaCare Rehabilitation’s Broomall and Boothwyn, PA centers. Anne treats patients dealing with upper extremity injuries and is a preferred provider for the Graston Technique.
NovaCare Rehabilitation and NovaCare are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.