Wednesday, September 5, 2012

National Backpack Awareness Month

"My backpack shouldn't look or feel like this!"
If you have children, then you know how heavy a backpack can get during the school year.  I have two teenagers and their backpacks are always packed full with heavy books, binders and school supplies.

When my girls first started school their backpacks were lighter and carrying them was a breeze. But once they hit junior high and high school, it was a whole different story.  I even have a hard time picking up their backpacks.  It's insane what they expect them to carry around.  In junior high they didn't have lockers so they had to tote their books around everywhere.

When the girls were little we used rolling backpacks because regular backpacks were too heavy. Now that they are stronger they use regular backpacks. Besides, rolling backpacks just aren't cool anymore, heaven forbid.

Their backpacks are so heavy that every year my youngest goes through two.  We don't buy cheap backpacks either!  We buy name-brand and they look and feel sturdy.  Either the zipper rips or the straps break anyway. This year we made it through two whole days before the zipper broke and ripped away from the bag.  I wasn't too happy since backpacks aren't cheap. I think it's ridiculous that kids are forced to carry so much on their backs. But, since that isn't going to change, I started thinking about what I could do to make this burden easier for my girls to carry.

The more backpack awareness we have the better off we are. I did some research and came across some good advice on back safety and keeping your child backache free.  I also found some guidelines that may help you keep your backpack longer so you don't have to buy more than one in a school year like I did. Also, Lands End, Jan Sport and LL Bean guarantee their backpacks.

Loading a Pack
In the above video, Karen Jacobs, Occupational Therapist, discusses selecting the right backpack, loading and wearing it correctly.
  • A child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10% of his or her body weight. This means a student weighing 100 pounds should wear a loaded backpack that is no heavier than ten pounds.
  •  Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back (the back of the pack).
  •  Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around.
  •  Check what your child is carrying and make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  • If the backpack is too heavy or tightly packed, your child can carry the item in his or her hands. If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.
Wearing a Pack
  • Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can make a child lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain.
  • Find a backpack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands when too much pressure is applied.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
  • Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
  • School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.
National Backpack Awareness Month

Did you know that over 2,000 backpack related injuries are reported every year?  That doesn't include the minor backaches children might not mention or that don't seem serious enough to treat. Why so many injuries, you ask? Well about 55% of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the student’s total body weight.  But, that isn't their fault.  They are required to have all those books! That is why we have National Backpack Awareness Month.  Schools starting to educate students and parents on how to properly load and carry their backpacks. If your school doesn't currently have something in place, you might want to ask your PTA or PTO to host a backpack safety education session.

A study of American students ages 11 to 15 years reported that 64% complained of back pain related to heavy backpacks and 21% reported the pain lasting more than 6 months.  Another study that taught middle school students how to load their backpacks properly was successful at reducing reported back pain.  Nearly 8 out of 10 students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks and shoulders.  

Having a  National Backpack Awareness Month may sound overly cautious or zealous. Some might think it isn't that big of a deal, especially if you have younger kids.  As my kids have grown, I've watched their backpacks grow too. The older they get the heavier it gets. Being aware and having a well informed backpack community will help our children in the long run. I wish I knew what I know now, 10 years ago. I may have saved my child some backaches and money.  It's always smart to be safe rather than sorry.

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

1 comment:

  1. The backpack is really useful especially for those don’t know how to pack their things backpack was the solution for that.