Heavy backpacks are a real pain in the neck. So much so that the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) hosts National School Backpack Awareness Day on the third Wednesday of every September.
And it’s not just backpacks—the same goes for purses, briefcases and luggage as well. The event falls on September 20 this year, with plenty of opportunities for students, parents, educators and others to learn how to “pack it light, wear it right.”
Consider these school backpack stats:
- More than 79 million students in the United States carry school backpacks.
- In 2013, nearly 22,200 fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital emergency rooms, physicians’ offices and clinics.
- A backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of a child’s body weight. When in doubt, set the full backpack on a bathroom scale or ask your physician’s office to weigh it.
Now that you know the ABCs, let’s study the 123s of basic backpack safety.
- Pack it. Utilize different compartments and pockets to distribute weight, with lighter items in front.
- Adjust and carry. Always use both shoulder straps to prevent injury, and adjust the sternum strap and hip belt to improve balance. When fitted properly, the backpack should rest snugly against the back and fall slightly above the waist.
- Put it on. To prevent back injury, teach children (and grown-ups!) to pick up the backpack by bending and lifting at the knees instead of the waist.
“If your child carries a full backpack every day, be sure to weigh it and adjust the load and fit appropriately,” says Marie Hooper, an occupational therapist at Beaufort Memorial. “Tingling in the arms and shoulders and a stooped or slanting posture are sure signs that the load is too heavy.”