Hurray for Summer! School’s out and the daily grind of books, backpacks, academic schedules and endless extracurricular commitments is on hold for a precious few warm and sunny weeks. Those of us with kids or grandkids in our lives are probably just enjoying the first weeks of vacation. Chances are that very few of us are thinking about back-to-school just yet. You can be sure that retailers are, though! Before you can blink twice, sales, specials and daily deals for every essential item a kid needs in his or her backpack will be everywhere. These items add up. In cost, of course, but also in a more literal sense – the weight of all these items really does add up! The heavy backpacks that our kids lug to school every day can be painful and possibly lead to chronic lower back and or neck/cervical injuries.
Kids shouldn’t carry more than 10 to 15 percent of their weight over their shoulders and on their backs according to Dr. Marvin T. Arnsdorff, co-founder of the Backpack Safety American. (www.backpacksafe.com) This means that your 60 pound 4th grader son should not have more than six to eight pounds in his backpack. An article featured on the website www.about.com has a “backpack weight calculator” function that is worth checking out.
You can find it at http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/safetyfirstaid/l/aa090202a.htm
“Right now there’s nobody saying that it’s cool and smart to carry a backpack correctly,” Dr. Arnsdorff explains on his organization’s web site. According to Dr. Hank Bernstein of Boston’s Children’s hospital, we can aim to decrease the risk of neck and back injury by following a few simple tips:
- Place heaviest items into a backpack first, as the closer they are to a child’s back, the less strain heavy text books or full water bottles put on lower back muscles.
- Size is important. Buy a backpack so that the bottom ends just a few inches above the waist.
- Use a backpack that has soft, padded straps to maximize comfort.
- Encourage your kids to carry theirs over both shoulders. This will better distribute the weight. (http://familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,21-2931,00.html?web)
“We need to tell children at a very early age that it’s cool and smart to take care of themselves. It could eliminate a lot of pain and grief later in life. Billions of dollars in workers compensation are lost every year due to back, neck and repetitive stress injuries. Most of those are because of bad habits learned in childhood, habits than can be prevented by education at an early age.” (http://www.backpacksafe.com/N5_News_Detail.asp?pid=6&ID=9)
A few other articles about backpack safety that are interesting and informative are: