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Backpack Safety – Tips All Students Should Follow

Sep 21, 2021

By James Guille, M.D., pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Premier

Fall is in the air and the kids are back in school. Reading, writing, and arithmetic have returned along with the books and backpacks that make learning accessible to everyone.

But the weight of those books, combined with the accessories of childhood and adolescence – hoodies, phones, laptops, tablets, sports equipment, and lunch – can add up fast.

Here are a few tips to make sure your loved one isn’t packing too much on that back this fall.

  1. Stress posture – Kids slumped over because of the weight of their backpack can cause injury. Make sure they are standing up straight. If they cannot stand up straight take some of the weight out of the backpack. We are talking about a child going to learn at school, not a pack animal. Too much weight can also have adverse effects on hips, knees, and ankles. Make sure the child is standing up straight when carrying any kind of weight, but especially a backpack.
  2. Backpack fit – The most common mistakes when it comes to backpacks is fit. Make sure the straps are adjusted and fit well. The student should be able to put the backpack on and take it off easily. Also make sure the straps go directly over both shoulders. Anything less is incorrect.
  3. Pack the backpack evenly – Like any other load you must carry it is easier if the weight is distributed evenly. Even if it takes some show-n-tell, be sure your student knows how to properly pack the backpack, so all the weight isn’t to one side.
  4. Remove the additional weight – When all else fails remove the excess weight. Ask your doctor for a note requesting two sets of books. One set for locker and classes/school. Second set for home so your student doesn’t have to carry heavy books to and from school. Educators don’t want to put your loved one in a position to get injured any more than you do. Call, email or meet in person, to discuss creative ways to lower the backpack burden daily.

Back problems are for adults, not kids. Make sure your student is educated on backpack safety.

James Guille, M.D., is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon and President of the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society. He sees patients in our Exton and Pottstown offices. To schedule an appointment, please call 610-792-9292.