It’s back-to-school time and that means backpacks.
From Nike to Jansport, nearly every kid rocks a backpack of their choice. But this quintessential staple that lugs 10-pound textbooks can easily kill your back if not worn right.
Dr. Michael Jofe, the chief of spine services at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, said he constantly tells parents and students that wearing one strap can cause severe back pain.
“It’s important for the health of the child’s back,” he said. “Children care about how they look now. I care about how they look in 30 years.’’
Jofe’s tips for preventing injury include wearing your backpack two inches above your waist and not using drawstring book bags to tote heavy objects.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, nearly 28,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and emergency rooms for backpack-related injuries such as strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures.
Lou Paradise, president and chief of research of Topical BioMedics, makers of Topricin Pain Relief and Healing Creams, offers the following tips for backpack safety.
• Make sure backpacks have padded backs and straps.
• Children should use both straps — slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
• Teach your child to pack lightly.
• A backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight.
• Straps should fit snuggly over the child’s shoulders.
• Parents should pick up their child’s backpack on a regular basis to gauge its weight.
• Position it so the pack is between the shoulders and not resting on the child’s lower back or hips.
• Tighten the straps so it sits close to the body.
• Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.
• If your child is experiencing back pain, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, speak to your doctor.
• Two shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly.
• Wide, padded shoulder straps and padded backpacks
• Waist belt to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.
• Backpacks with wheels are an excellent choice for older students who must tote a heavy load.
Signs to watch for
• A change in your child’s posture when wearing the backpack.
• Struggling to put on or take off the backpack.
• Pain when wearing the backpack.
• Red marks from the shoulder straps after the backpack has been removed.
For more information on backpack safety or National School Backpack Awareness Day, visit www.aota.org.