What Parents Don't Know About Backpacks

Most parents have no idea how much their child’s backpack weighs, nor what is in it…that is indeed what a recent research study published in the “2003 Archives of Disease and Childhood” reports.

Every year school age children make more than 13,000 backpack related office or emergency room visits in the United States, and in the past four years there have been more than twenty documented studies showing that improperly worn backpacks may cause long term damage to a growing spine. Yet, one wonders how many parents never take the time to check the weights or contents of these backpacks.

These studies, which were done to assess parental knowledge of the weight and contents of their elementary schoolchild’s backpack, showed that 96% of parents have never checked the child’s backpack weight and 34% have never checked the backpack contents.

"Students, parents and educators should understand the risks in the use of backpacks," said Dr. Alice S. Behr (pictured), a leader in the backpack safety movement. "We're committed to the health and safety of these children, so we help raise awareness through our work with schools."

Dr. Behr joins thousands of healthcare professionals and educators throughout North America and around the world in helping school-age children use their backpacks safely and properly. She recommends the following safety tips:

· Choose Right - Choosing the right size backpack is the first and most important step to safe backpack use. Bring a friend to help you measure your backpack properly. The proper size backpack is 75% of the length of a child's back, approximately the space between the shoulder blades and waist.
· Pack Right - The maximum weight of the loaded backpack should not exceed 15% of your body weight. Pack only what you need for the day. Carry a book or two by hand to relieve the load if necessary. If the backpack forces the wearer to lean forward to carry, it's overloaded.
· Lift Right - Use these steps for proper lifting to prevent injury:
1. Face the pack.
2. Bend at the knees.
3. Using both hands, check the weight of the pack.
4. Lift with your legs.
5. Apply one shoulder strap at a time. Avoid slinging the pack onto your back.
· Wear It Right - Use both shoulder straps at all times to avoid unnecessary pressure to one side of your body. Make the shoulder straps snug, but not too tight. When your backpack has a waist strap, use it to stabilize the load.
· Keep backpacks off the floors and clear of walkways. Prevent the possibility of someone tripping over your backpack.
· Do not swing your backpack. It could hurt you and it is dangerous to those around you.
· Do not put sharp or pointed objects in the backpack. Store pens and pencils in a safe spot.

For more information on backpack safety and how you can bring a program to your school or school district, email Dr. Behr at abchiro@rcn.com