Back-to-school: Smart tips to ease the load of kids’ backpacks

As parents and caregivers prepare for the new school year, it’s important they ensure that kids backpacks are an appropriately size to help reduce their risk of common back, neck and shoulder pain and injuries.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 12,900 individuals were treated in emergency rooms for backpack-related injuries in 2016. More than 6,300 of those injuries involved kids 5 to 18 years old.

Before kids head back to school this fall, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers safety tips to help reduce the risk of backpack-related injuries.

Expert advice:

“Parents should teach kids about the dos and don’ts of carrying a backpack,” said AAOS spokesperson and orthopaedic spine surgeon Dirk Alander, MD. “Helping kids organize their backpacks ahead of time will help them select only necessary items for the day and avoid overpacking.”

The AAOS recommends the following backpack safety tips:

  • School backpacks are for schoolwork. Carry only those items that are required for the day. If possible, leave books at home or school.
  • When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.
  • Organize heavier things low and towards the center of the backpack to evenly distribute the weight on the back and prevent any injuries.
  • 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.
  • At home and at school, keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.

Parents also can help with backpack-related issues:

  • Encourage your child to stop at their locker throughout the day, as time permits, to drop off heavier books.
  • Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle.
  • If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease the load on their back.
  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about numbness or tingling in the arms or legs which may indicate poor fit or too much weight being carried.

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