Backpack safety

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: April 24th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

In the hit children’s cartoon series “Dora the Explorer,” Dora’s friend Backpack comes alive and joins in her adventures. And what school-aged child doesn’t have a trusty backpack of his or her own?

But as more youngsters lug around backpacks, health practitioners have grown increasingly concerned about injuries, including chronic back pain, poor posture and numbness in the hands and arms.

In a recent study by investigators at the University of California at San Diego, a group of children wore backpacks that weighed no more than typical loads worn by most youngsters. Still, sensors showed that the weight produced pressure that could cut blood flow to the shoulder muscles.

The pressure under the backpack straps significantly increased as the children donned packs that were ten percent, twenty percent and thirty percent of their body weight. Previous reports have shown that children carry an average load that is twenty-two percent of their body weight. Researchers say that’s too high.

So how can you prevent your little explorer from experiencing a backpack injury? Experts say you should choose packs with padded straps that are proportional to your child’s size. Teach your child to wear both straps so the pack’s weight is evenly distributed and make sure the bottom of the pack rests in the curve of your child’s lower back, not more than four inches below the waistline. Backpacks with wheels are ideal, but not always practical in schools with narrow hallways… check with school officials for their recommendations.