As parents prepare children for going back-to-school, it is important to select the proper backpack for their size and strength. Dr. Mara Karamitopoulos, Pediatric Orthopedic specialist at The Maimonides Bone & Joint Center, shares tips for how to ensure your child’s backpack is the proper size and fit.
“Choosing an ill-fitting backpack can have negative consequences,” warns Dr. Karamitopoulos. “You could place your child at a higher risk of developing lower back problems.” In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year more than 7,300 backpack-related injuries are treated by hospitals and doctors.
According to Dr. Karamitopoulos, backpacks should not weigh more than 10%-15% of your child’s body weight. To make sure it’s in the safe range, check to see if he or she leans forward when walking while wearing the backpack. If so, the backpack is too heavy.
To evenly distribute the weight of the backpack, purchase one with a waist-belt as this feature helps to relieve stress on one area of the back. Wearing only one strap, or selecting a one-shoulder backpack, is not recommended because it shifts all of the weight onto one shoulder. Look for backpacks with multiple pockets to help distribute the weight. Place the heaviest items on the bottom to keep the weight off of the shoulders and maintain better posture.
Dr. Karamitopoulos offers these additional tips:
- Choose a backpack with padded, wide straps. Thin straps will dig into your child’s shoulders.
- Backpacks with wheels take away the burden of carrying something heavy on your back. However, your child’s school may not permit these kinds of backpacks. Check with the school before you buy one.
- If your child has a locker in school, encourage dropping off books throughout the day to avoid carrying a heavy load.
- Tighten the straps so the backpack is closer to the body – but not so tight that the straps dig into your child’s shoulders. The backpack should not extend below the lower back and should rest evenly in the middle of the back.
- Plan your child’s homework in advance so he or she doesn’t have to carry all of the books home on a single day.
“If possible, keep an extra set of textbooks at home,” said Dr. Karamitopoulos. “This way your child doesn’t have to carry the same books back and forth.”
There may be days when you cannot lessen your children’s backpack loads. Remind them, though, that they can always carry some of the weight in their arms. Adhering to these simple safety tips can safeguard children’s backs and reduce the risk of injury. And making these guidelines a habit for the young might continue to protect them into adulthood.
The Maimonides Bone & Joint Center has a five-star rating for spinal surgery, the highest rating possible from HealthGrades, and is committed to providing Brooklyn’s patients with the most advanced treatments. For more information on The Maimonides Bone & Joint Center please visit http://www.maimonidesmed.org/Orthopedics/Ortho.aspx. To make an appointment please call (718) 283-7400.
Maimonides Medical Center is Brooklyn’s pre-eminent health care provider and a recipient of the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence. According to the federal government, Maimonides is one of only 22 hospitals in the nation to achieve outstanding patient outcomes in all three categories of care that are measured annually: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. Widely recognized for its major achievements in advancing medical and information technology, Maimonides has 711 beds and over 70 subspecialty programs. For additional information on the nationally recognized clinical services at Maimonides Medical Center, please visit www.maimonidesmed.org.