A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study found that more than 75 percent of students ages 8-12 suffer from increasing back pain inflicted by carrying their schoolwork and supplies in backpacks or similar totes.
"If too heavy or worn incorrectly, backpacks can strain muscles and joints and cause serious back pain," said Dr. Angela Bremer of Explore Chiropractic in Bemidji. "Some of our younger elementary school students are literally carrying one-third their body weight for prolonged periods of time and distance. That puts a lot of stress on a body in the midst of development."
Backpack-related injuries resulted in 7,300 emergency room visits in 2006, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Bremer adds tips for purchasing backpacks:
- Backpack size should correlate with the child's size and age - smaller, younger children should have smaller backpacks. Look for reflective material on the backpack to improve visibility and padded shoulder straps for added comfort.
- Consider buying a backpack that can be wheeled or a triangular sling-style bag, which is worn over one shoulder and across the body, which better balances the load.
- When loading the backpack, put heaviest items closest to the back. This helps distribute weight more evenly. When loaded, the backpack should weigh less than 10 to 15 percent of the child's body weight.
- Adjust shoulder straps so the backpack fits snugly against the back. The child should always use both shoulder straps and clip the waist best, if the backpack has one, for added support and even distribution.