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Heavy backpacks can lead to injuries with children

SAN DIEGO – Rady Children’s Hospital recently issued a statement that it is felt many children are carrying backpacks that are far too heavy to carry on their back, making them more vulnerable to injury. Every year, physical therapists treat patients with serious back and neck injuries due to heavy backpacks.

A loaded backpack should be light enough for a child to walk or stand up straight without leaning forward or to the side. Backpacks should be no heavier than 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight. That means that if the child weighs 80 pounds, the backpack should weigh no more than 8 to 12 pounds.

When carried correctly, a backpack is easier on the back and shoulders than carrying a briefcase or purse. That’s because the strongest muscles in the body, the back and the abdominal muscles, support the weight of the load. A backpack worn using both the shoulder and hip straps are less likely to cause neck and shoulder pain because it helps distribute weight more evenly across the body.

To help your child avoid the neck and back strain caused by heavy backpacks, try these tips:

• Buy a backpack with wide padded shoulder straps and a padded back.

• Pack lightly. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments.

• Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

• A backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.

• Use both backpack shoulder straps over both shoulders; slinging it over one shoulder increases the risk of back and shoulder pain.

• Consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs.


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