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Backpack Safety

As your kids go back to school, they’ll also probably go back to using their backpacks which may have been sitting unused in a corner or a closet all summer. It’s important to remember that backpacks can cause injuries if they are not used correctly.

Heavy backpacks do not cause scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that often shows up in children during adolescence, but they can cause other problems. “Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly may injure muscles and joints,” said Troy Skidmore, D.O. of Phoebe Orthopaedics. “This can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain as well as posture problems.”

Parents should always choose a backpack that is appropriate for the size of their child. A backpack that is lightweight and features wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded back and a waist strap will offer better protection for your child.

To prevent injuries, always make sure your child:

  • Uses both shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly across the back.
  • Tightens the straps to keep the load closer to the back.
  • Organizes items with heavier things low and toward the center.
  • Packs light, carrying only items that are required for the day.
  • Lifts properly by bending at the knees when picking up a backpack.

You should watch how your child puts on a backpack. If he or she struggles, the backpack is likely too heavy. If the load can’t be lightened, encourage your child to carry a couple of items in his or her arms to ease the load on the back.

If your child complains about an injury, get it checked out. “Don’t ignore a child or teenager who complains about back or shoulder pain. Encourage them to tell you about numbness, tingling or discomfort in their arms or legs which may indicate a poorly-fitted backpack or one that is too heavy,” Dr. Skidmore said.

The team at Phoebe Orthopaedics wants to help you avoid injuries in your children. If problems do occur, we’re always ready to treat them. You can call us at 312-5000.