How to Choose the Right Backpack

With the summer quickly coming to an end, many of us are getting ready  for the school year which means shopping for that school supply list. As your child oohs and ahs over backpacks featuring his or her favorite colors and characters, you should also look for a backpack that is safe for your child to be carrying for 9 months of the year.

Backpack Facts:
•    The AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association) recommends that a student’s backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of the student’s bodyweight.
•    Emergency rooms, doctor’s offices and clinics saw more than 2,000 backpack-related injuries in 2007.
•    One study reports that 64 percent of American students between the ages of 11 and 15 years reported back pain related to heavy backpacks. Six months later, 20 percent reported the pain was still there.

Tips on Choosing and Fitting the Proper Backpack:
•    Choose a backpack with thick, padded shoulder straps that will prevent shoulder pain or discomfort.
•    Make sure the backpack has adjustable straps. Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits closely to a child’s back. This will prevent the pack from pulling the child back and causing strain to the muscles.
•    Encourage your child to wear the straps over both shoulders. Wearing the pack over one shoulder can cause leaning and bending of the spine.
•    Choose a backpack with a waist belt. Waist belts help even out the weight of the pack.
•    The pack should rest on the child’s curve of the lower back. The bottom of the backpack should not be more than 4 inches below his or her waistline.
•    Measure your child’s back. Adjust the straps if the pack is lower than 4 inches below his or her waistline.

Tips on Packing your Child’s Backpack:
•    Weigh your child and their backpack. Remember, your child should not be carrying more than 10 percent of his or her body weight.
•    Your child can carry a book in his or her arms if the backpack is too heavy.
•    Consider a rolling backpack if your child’s school allows.
•    Be sure that your child is carrying only what is needed in his or her backpack for each day.

There are several types of backpacks of different shapes and sizes. When weaving in and out of the aisles and crowds this year, please stop and consider the information on backpack safety.

Nichole Mayer, OTR/L, MOT
Nichole F. Mayer, MOT, OTR/L is a hand therapist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and has been employed since 2010 treating a variety of patients throughout the inpatient hospital, outpatient department and various clinics. She demonstrates expertise in the areas of burn, trauma, scar management, splinting and casting. She is a National Board Certified Occupational Therapist and licensed in the state of Ohio. Nichole takes part in evidence-based practice and research to ensure quality care and best outcomes.

3 thoughts on “How to Choose the Right Backpack

  1. Becky Bockrath on said:

    Problem is…my granddaughter is going into 6th grade. She was born with pulmonary stenosis and is very tiny. she has Noonans syndrome. What is she to do when she has to bring home very heavy books. Last year..I swear her bookbag was heavier then her. I have no idea how she carried it.

    1. Amber Patterson on said:

      This is a great article. In response to Becky’s comment, one of the nurses I work with had a similar problem with her daughter. She resolved the situation by requesting a second set of books from the school to keep at home. Given your granddaughter’s medical condition, the school may provide her with a set to keep at home, so she doesn’t have to carry them back and forth. Good luck!

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