Back to school

Beware of backpack injuries

 

Backpack-related injuries send an estimated 5,000 children a year to emergency rooms.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Even if you’re not a parent of school-aged children, the traffic and returning road rage has signaled the beginning of a new school year. But what may not be common knowledge, even to parents, doctors say, are the risks associated with lugging around heavy backpacks.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, backpack-related injuries send an estimated 5,000 children a year to emergency rooms. More than 14,000 children are treated annually for injuries.

Carrying a heavy backpack is bad enough, but if a child also suffers from scoliosis, a stress fracture or muscle strain, the weight can aggravate the condition or delay recovery, said Dr. David Marshall, medical director of sports medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“The fallout from this could be missing school days due to back pain, missing certain classes (P.E.) and activities such as after-school sports, scouts and camps,” he said.

Marshall said parents should consider a second set of books for home use to avoid carrying the entire load to and from school. In addition, a visit to the doctor to evaluate children for core weakness, tight back muscles and poor posture might also be in order.

The risks associated with heavy backpacks have long been a concern for parents like Diane Crowell, who suggested her daughter bring home only the books she needs to complete assignments.

Because she needed all of them, they compromised. Crowell purchased a rolling bag to take the weight off. Rolling bags, however, also pose a safety risk, since students have to maneuver staircases.

To help take a load off, Marshall offered these tips from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta:

•  Buy a backpack with two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders. Make sure your child uses both straps.

•  Choose a backpack with a padded waist or chest belt. This distributes weight more evenly across the body. Multiple compartments also help distribute the weight.

•  Your child’s backpack should not be wider than his body.

•  Consider choosing a backpack with a metal frame (like hikers use) or on wheels (like a flight attendant’s bag). Check with your child’s school first to see if these types of bags are allowed.

•  When fully loaded, your child’s backpack should weigh less than 15 percent of his body weight. Use your bathroom scale to measure the maximum backpack load so your child can know what it should feel like.

•  Make sure your child isn’t toting unnecessary items like laptops, CD players and video games. These can add a lot of pounds.

•  Heavier items should be placed closer to the back of the backpack, near the body.

•  Picking up the pack properly is important. As with any heavy object, your child should bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands.

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