Written by Mary Ann Lopez
As if going back to school wasn’t rough enough for kids today, they have a heavy load to carry … in the form of books, notebooks and excessively heavy backpacks.
In some cases the backpacks appear to be larger than the child or are so heavy they require wheels to be rolled around.
As families prepare for back to school in Orland Park, experts say parents should pay attention to what is going into a backpack every day, not waiting for children to complain about back pain before taking action.
A child’s backpack should be roughly 10 percent to 20 percent of their total body weight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Yet, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported more than 7,300 injuries annually requiring treatment from hospitals and doctors. Injuries include bruises, sprains, strains to the back and shoulder and fractures.
"Backpack injuries are commonly caused by wearing overloaded backpacks, as well as lifting and carrying them incorrectly,” orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons spokesperson Dr. Melanie Kinchen has said in a news release. “Parents and teachers should guide kids to take preventative measures. Start by choosing a backpack that is appropriately sized for your child or have them use a rolling backpack as an alternative to carrying their heavy load on their shoulders."
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following safety tips:
Always use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed.
Tighten the straps and use waist strap if the bag has one.
Remove or organize items if too heavy and place biggest items closest to the back.
Lift properly and bend at the knees to pick up a backpack.
Carry only those items that are required for the day; leave books at home or school, if possible.
Keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.
Parents also can help with backpack-related pain:
Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about pain or discomfort that may be caused by a heavy backpack, like numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child and look for any changes in your child's posture when he or she wears the backpack.
Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle. Do not ignore red marks on the shoulders if your child or teenager expresses discomfort.
Talk to the school about lightening the load. Keep the load under 10-15 percent of the child's body weight.
Be sure the school allows students to stop at their lockers throughout the day.
For additional information visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
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