Back-to-School Backpack Safety by Dr. Ryan Coogan

Back to school for many school kids means new clothes, new supplies, and new backpacks. It can also mean new back ACHES.
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Back to school for many school kids means new clothes, new supplies, and new backpacks. It can also mean new back ACHES.

Children who frequently and repetitively use poorly fitted or loaded backpacks are subject to neck pain, back pain, headaches, and other problems associated with poor posture. Research shows more than 7000 emergency room visits result from injuries associated with backpacks and these injuries have increased 330% since 1996.

Wellness doctor and chiropractor, Dr. Ryan Coogan, has addressed some of the key issues surrounding children’s health and safety with their backpacks below. He is a member of Backpack Safety America and a certified fellow in Clinical Biomechanics of Posture.

Here are some quick, easy, and helpful tips to prevent injury and pain in children:

CHOOSE RIGHT -- Choosing the correct sized backpack is an important first step to safe backpack use. The backpack should not be larger than three quarters of the length of a child’s back. The shoulder straps should be padded and a waist strap is ideal.

PACK RIGHT -- The maximum weight of the loaded backpack should not exceed 15% of your child’s body weight, so only pack what is needed. Heavier books should be closer to the child. Regardless of the weight, if the backpack forces the wearer to bend forward to carry, it is overloaded.

LIFT RIGHT -- Even adults can hurt themselves if they lift 20 pounds improperly. Imagine what a child could do to a growing spine lifting 20 pounds improperly. Here are the guidelines for lifting a backpack:

a) Face the pack

b) Bend at the knees

c) Use both hands and check the weight of the pack

d) Lift with the legs

e) Apply one shoulder strap, then the other

4. WEAR RIGHT -- Use both shoulder straps snug but not too tight (the pack should not hang down past the waist). When the backpack has a waist strap, it should be used.

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