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Pack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists

Orthopedic doctor offers tips on how to choose and use the proper backpack

Please note: This article was published more than one year ago. The facts and conclusions presented may have since changed and may no longer be accurate. And "More information" links may no longer work. Questions about personal health should always be referred to a physician or other health care professional.

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SUNDAY, Aug. 17, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- The start of a new school year means it's time to remind students and parents about proper selection and use of backpacks.

"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," Eric Wall, director of the orthopedic surgery division at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a center news release.

However, improper use of backpacks can cause injuries that require medical treatment. For example, backpack-related injuries send almost 6,000 students to emergency departments each year, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report released in 2002.

Wall and his colleagues in the division of orthopedic surgery offer guidelines to prevent school backpack-related injuries:

  • When shopping for a backpack, select one that's lightweight, has two wide and padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back, and waist straps. A pack with wheels may be a good option if your child has to lug a very heavy load.
  • Children should always use both shoulder straps, and the straps should be cinched tight.
  • Limit backpack loads to no more than 15 percent to 20 percent of a child's body weight.
  • The heaviest items should be packed closest to the center of a child's back.
  • Children shouldn't carry all of their books throughout the school day. They should keep their books in their locker and get them when they need them.
  • When wearing or lifting a heavy backpack, children should bend using both knees.
  • Don't leave backpacks on the floor where people can trip on them, and don't swing a pack around where it can hit other people.
  • If your child uses a backpack and complains of persistent back pain, consult with a pediatrician.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about backpack safety.

SOURCE: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, news release, Aug. 6, 2008


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