These days most children and teenagers carry their schoolbooks, games kit, lunch boxes and other assorted bits and pieces in backpacks during the school year.
“When used correctly, backpacks are the most efficient way to carry a load and distribute the weight among some of the body’s strongest muscles,” says Dr. Eric Wall, Director of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre.
“However, parents need to carefully select a backpack to ensure that they are comfortable and do not cause injury.” he says.
To prevent any unnecessary injuries doctors at the hospital have released a set of simple guidelines to help parents choose a suitable backpack for their child.
• Look for a backpack that is lightweight and weighs no more than 15% to 20% of body weight and has two wide and padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back and waist straps.
• Encourage children to use both shoulder straps and make sure the straps are tight.
• Organize the contents so that the heaviest items such as books are closest to the centre of the back and that all compartments are used.
• Persuade children to stop at their lockers often to both offload and collect books so they’re not carrying a full load around all day.
• Remind children to bend using both knees when lifting a heavy backpack.
• Remind children to not leave backpacks on the floor where others can trip over them and not to swing them around where they may hit others.
• Back and shoulder discomfort is common with heavy backpack use and if children complain of persistent back pain parents should contact their family doctor.