Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00002318/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Right Backpack: Guidelines for Parents
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Smith, Suzanna
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2006
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Original publication date August 18, 2006."
General Note: "FCS2246"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00002318:00001

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FCS2246 The Right Backpack: Guidelines for Parents1 Suzanna Smith2 1. This document is FCS2246, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date August 18, 2006. Reviewed by Carol Lehtola, Ph.D. and Carolyn Hanson, Ph.D., O.T. Visit the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. Suzanna Smith, Associate Professor, Human Development, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean Backpacks are a popular, useful, and convenient way to carry items needed for school and other activities. When used correctly, backpacks carry the day's necessities on the body's strongest muscles, the back and abdomen (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons [AAOS], 2004; Gavin, 2004). However, when backpacks are too heavy or are worn incorrectly they can injure the muscles and joints of growing children and teens. The result can be severe pain from strains and sprains on the back and shoulders, and even contusions and fractures (National Safety Council [NSC], 2004). An estimated one half of U.S. school children carry too much weight in their backpacks and the number of backpack related injuries in children is increasing (AAOS, 2004; Dobbs, 2005; NSC, 2004). Parents can follow these guidelines to help their family use backpacks safely and prevent injuries (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2004-2006). Choose a backpack that fits right. Look for a lightweight pack with wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded back, and a waist belt. The pack should fit the child. It should not be bigger than the length of the child's torso (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], n.d.; California Physical Therapy Association [CPTA], 2003). Compression straps on the sides or bottom of the backpack tighten to compress and stabilize the contents of the backpack (NSC, 2004). Use the backpack correctly so weight is distributed evenly.


The Right Backpack: Guidelines for Parents 2 Always use both shoulder straps and adjust them so they are snug, but not too tight, and the child's arms and shoulders move freely (AAOS, 2004; AAP, n.d.; Dobbs, 2005). Wear the pack close to the body and about two inches above the waist so it rests evenly in the middle of the back (CPTA, 2003). Pack only what is needed. The backpack should not weigh more than 15% percent of the student's body weight (AOTA, 2004-2006). For example, a 90 lb child can carry up to 13.5 lbs in their backpack. Spread the weight among the compartments, with heavier items closest to the center of the back but not poking out (AAOS, 2004). Other Guidelines There are other precautions your student can take: Don't bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting the pack. Bend using both knees and squat if necessary. Do back strengthening exercises, and stay fit. Encourage your child to use a locker if available. Talk to the school about buying a second set of textbooks for students, distributing the homework load, and permitting students to stop at their lockers during the day. Backpacks with wheels may be a good option when there is a heavy load. However, wheeled backpacks may be difficult to to use on stairs or in crowded halls. Be sure your child's school allows rolling backpacks before making this choice (AAOS, 2004). Signs of Injury How do parents know if their children are being injured? Signs of a too-heavy load include struggling to put on or take off the pack, stooped posture, pain when wearing the pack, tingling or numbness in the arms, and red marks on the shoulders (AOTA, 2004-2006; Gavin; NSC). If these problems continue after adjusting the pack, see your family doctor or pediatrician. Notes 1. Injury occurs in several ways. When a backpack is too heavy, it pulls a person backwards, and the person may lean forward to compensate. Bending forward at the hips and arching the back can compress the spine unnaturally (Gavin, 2004). Over time, the shoulders can become rounded and the upper back, curved, and the child or teen can develop shoulder, neck, and back pain. In addition, tight narrow straps may interfere with circulation and heavy weight may cause stress or compression to the shoulders and arms. When nerves are compressed, the child may experience tingling or numbness in the arms and hands. When wearing the backpack over just one shoulder, the child or teen may lean to one side to offset the extra weight. This can result in lower and upper back pain, shoulder and neck strain, and poor posture (AAOS, 2004; AOTA, 2004-2006; Gavin, 2004). 2. Reflective material also helps keep the child visible to drivers at night (CPTA, 2003). 3. To check the fit of your child's backpack, see the following illustrations: http://www.ccapta.org/BackpackSafetyIllus.htm, http://www.promoteot.org/ AI_BackpackStrategies.html References American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (2004). Backpack safety. Retrieved June 10, 2006 from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/fact/ thr_report.cfm?Thread_ID=105&topcategory=Spine American Academy of Pediatrics. (2005). Back to school tips. Retrieved June 11, 2006 from http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/augschool.htm


The Right Backpack: Guidelines for Parents 3 American Academy of Pediatrics (n.d.). Backpack safety. Retrieved June 13, 2006 from http://www.aap.org/advocacy/backpack_safety.PDF American Occupational Therapy Association. (2004-2006). Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students. Retrieved June 21, 2006 from http://www.promoteot.org/ AI_BackpackStrategies.html California Physical Therapy Association (2003). Is your childs backpack making the grade? Retrieved June 9, 2006 from http://www.ccapta.org/BackpackSafety.htm Dobbs, M. (2005). Backpack safetyLighten the load! Retrieved June 9, 2006 from http://stlouischildrens.org/conditionsillnesses/ ConditionsIllnessesArticles/tabid/88/itemid/2131/ Default.aspx Gavin, M. (2004). Backpack basics. Teen Health. Retrieved June 13, 2006 from http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/school/ backpack.html National Safety Council. (2004). Backpack related injuries in children. National Safety Council. Retrieved June 13, 2006 from http://www.nsc.org/library/facts/backpack.htm