August 1, 2016

So much homework, so many books. Don’t let those backpacks cause injuries.


Children are heading back to school in Middle Tennessee. As they settle into classes and start learning new material, they may carry lots of heavy books between school and home. Overly heavy backpacks can lead to painful strains, sprains and posture problems.

Dr. Gregory Mencio, Vanderbilt’s chief of Pediatric Orthopaedics and the director of the Vanderbilt Spina Bifida Clinic, gave us some important tips parents should know about backpack safety and injury prevention for their children.

Look for signs that the bag is too heavy.

Numbness, tingling or discomfort in the arms or legs may indicate a problem with the way your child is carrying his or her backpack. Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if either task causes a struggle. If the backpack seems too heavy, children should remove some of the books. As a general rule, children should carry no more than 15 to 20 percent of their body weight.

Distribute weight evenly.

Children and teenagers often carry their bags on one shoulder. Unfortunately, putting all of the weight on one shoulder can strain that side of the child’s body. Make sure your child understands the importance of using both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed across the back. Heavier items should be packed low and toward the center of the backpack. Parents should tighten the straps to keep the load closer to their children’s backs.

Consider using a rolling backpack.

The easiest way to lighten your child’s load is to take all of the weight away from their shoulders. Imagine traveling and having to carry all of your luggage on your back. Using a bag that rolls provides convenience and protection for your child.

Leave some books at home.

It may sound simple, but many children carry all of their books even though they may not use them every day. Encourage your child to leave books in a locker or at home if they will not be needed that day.

We hope these tips will help your child enjoy a healthy and productive school year.

Do you have other solutions that have helped your children lighten their load? Share them in the comments below.