What You Need to Know About Backpack Safety
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Backpacks are an essential part of a student’s wardrobe, but back pain associated with a too heavy and/or improperly fitted backpack is becoming a regular phenomenon. GoLocalWorcester talked with UMass Memorial Medical Center pediatrician Safdar Medina, MD, about how to prevent backpack injuries.
GoLocalWorcester: What are the problems associated with a too heavy backpack?
Dr. Medina: Backpacks that are too heavy or are worn improperly, can cause severe back, neck and shoulder pain, restrict circulation, and can lead to posture problems.
GLW: Do those problems have long term effects?
Dr. Medina: These problems will not have long-term effects if corrected promptly.
GLW: Are what age/grade level are you seeing this occur? How young can it occur?
Dr. Medina: We can see these problems start in elementary school.
GLW: What is a safe weight for a child's backpack?
Dr. Medina: A backpack and its contents should not weigh more than 10-20 percent of a child's body weight.
GLW: What advice do you give parents and students about choosing, loading and carrying a backpack?
Dr. Medina: Parents should spend time making sure they have the right backpack for their child. The shoulder straps should be wide and padded. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders and cause pain and restrict circulation. Backpacks should have two shoulder straps.
Ideally the backpack should have a waist strap to help distribute weight more evenly. A child should bend using both knees and not over the waist when carrying a backpack. There are back strengthening exercises that can help build the muscles needed to carry a backpack.
Dr. Safdar Medina, MD, is a pediatric primary care physician at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Tri-river Family Health Center in Uxbridge, where he has worked for 13 years. Dr. Medina went to college at the University of Toronto and medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine, and did his residency training through Brown University School of Medicine at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence. His special interests in the field of pediatrics are: working with children with developmental disabilities and adolescent medicine.
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