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Letter: Backpacks and safety needs

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

With the start of the new school year, we would like to remind parents of safety needs for their child when carrying a backpack to school. 

More than 11,000 backpack and back-carrying-device injuries were estimated to have occurred in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Backpacks are a popular and practical way to carry school supplies and books. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among the body’s strongest muscles. When they are too heavy or worn incorrectly, backpacks can cause problems. Improperly used, backpacks may injure muscles and joints, which can lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as postural problems.

When choosing a backpack, look for one that is lightweight and an appropriate size for your student. Make sure it has two wide, padded shoulder straps and a waist strap. Another option would be to choose a rolling backpack.

To properly carry the backpack, tighten the straps to comfortably fit the student. Always pack lightly. Carry only the books and supplies that you will need. Ideally, the backpack should not weigh more than 15 percent of the child’s body weight, according to the American Physical Therapy Association and other experts. Heavier items should be packed first, close to the body. If the child needs to lean forward to carry the pack, it is too heavy. Remember to lift the backpack properly. Never lift and swing the backpack while twisting at the same time.

Do not ignore any back pain in a child or a teenager.

Julie West

Physical therapist and owner of West Physical Therapy

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