The school year is finally here, and children across Michigan are excitingly packing up their new backpacks preparing for another academic year. On Sept 16th National Backpack Awareness Day will take place. This day is recognized every third Wednesday of September to educate parents, students, educators, and school administrators on the potential health risks overloaded or improperly worn backpacks can have on adolescents and teens.
You’ve more than likely witnessed a child leaned over at the waist and lumbering to the bus stop sporting a backpack overfilled with textbooks, homework, and school supplies. While they may be sign of an expanding mind and academic success, overstuffed backpacks receive a failing grade for the physical stress and detrimental health effects to young bodies.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 28,100 individuals were treated for injuries related to backpacks in 2014, and more than 8,300 of those incidents were children aged 5-18 years old. Is your child’s backpack posing a health risk? Below are potential risks caused by overloaded and improperly worn backpack, and safety tips all parents should be aware of.
POTENTIAL DANGERS OF HEAVY BACKPACKS
Lugging around a heavy backpack all day can cause children and adolescents to experience a variety of pain including: back, shoulder, and neck pain. It can also cause injuries to the muscles and joints, and even lead to posture.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) young children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor.
To avoid these potential health issues, backpacks should ideally weigh no more than 10% of the child’s body weight, and never more that 15%. For example if your child weighs 90 pounds then the target backpack weight should be 9 pounds, and maximum backpack weight 13.5 pounds.
According to a New York Times Article, back pain often results when the weight of the backpack pulls children backward, prompting them to bend forward or to arch their backs to keep the pack centered. This position proves to be dangerous because it can compress the spine, pressing the vertebrae on the discs between them.
Children wearing their backpacks improperly can also experience pain. If the backpack hangs too low it will increase the weight on the shoulders, causing the child to lean forward, leading to poor posture. Wearing the backpack on one shoulder can also lead to neck and muscle spasms, as well as lower back pain.
SAFE BACKPACK DESIGNS
- Select backpacks with two padded, wide (preferably 2 inches), and adjustable shoulder straps
- Select a backpack with a padded back
- Make sure the size of the backpack matches the size of the child’s back (shouldn’t hang over the lower back)
- Select a light-weight material
- Look for waist or chest straps (these help distribute the weight of the backpack)
TIPS FOR PARENTS
- Weigh your child’s backpack regularly to make sure it doesn’t exceed the suggested weight of 10% of child’s body weight
- Encourage your child to remove any unnecessary items from backpack daily
- Consider buying a second set of books for home use, if the books are too heavy for your child to lug around
- Teach child how to properly wear and pick up the backpack
Make sure that you share the dangers and safety precautions of backpack use with other parents, teachers, and students to put National Backpack Awareness Day into practice every day!