Backpack Safety

September 16, 2022

Backpacks are often an essential item for helping students carry their books and supplies to school. However, wearing a backpack improperly or carrying one that is too heavy can lead to injury. Set your child up for school year success by following safe backpack practices.

How to Properly Select a Backpack

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into shoulders, causing pain and restricting circulation. They are also less sturdy and more likely to rip after just a few weeks or months of use.
  • Look for padding. The part of the back that rests on your child’s back should be well padded. This adds comfort and provides protection from any sharp edges or objects inside the pack.
  • Select a backpack that is lightweight, but sturdy. Look for strong zippers and tough nylon fabrics that will resist rips and tears without adding extra weight.
  • Reflective fabric is good idea, especially if your child will be walking, riding their bike or going to and from the bus stop.

How to Properly Wear a Backpack

Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of books and supplies across some of the body’s strongest muscles. 
  • Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may strain muscles. If child prefers a messenger-style bag, make sure they wear it across the body instead of on one shoulder.
  • Don’t overload the backpack. A filled backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10 pounds. Parents of younger students should clean out the backpack on a regular basis to see if there are unnecessary items adding to the backpack’s weight. Encourage teens to clean out their backpack from time to time, too.
  • Only carry items that are required for the day. Pack heavier items at the top and toward the front.
  • Keep the straps tight. The bottom of the pack should fall two inches above the waist, and the pack should be relatively close to the body. Use the chest strap, if present, to take some of the load off the shoulder straps.
  • Do not wear a backpack while riding in a car. In the event of an accident, doing so could cause or intensify injury.

Children and teens that wear their backpack incorrectly or carry one that is too heavy are putting themselves at risk for injury. Muscles and joints may be damaged and lead to severe neck, back and shoulder pain. Do not ignore any back pain in children or teens and encourage your student to tell you about any numbness, tingling, or discomfort in the arms or legs. This may indicate a backpack that is too heavy or does not fit well.

To check if your child’s backpack is too heavy, watch them put it on. If they struggle and the pack seems too heavy, remove some of the books and have your child carry them in their arms to ease the load. Encourage older students to make frequent stops at their locker during the day to drop-off or switch out heavier books.

It is important to take your child to pediatric specialists who are experts in treating only kids. At Children's Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates, LLP our board certified, fellowship trained, specialists provide the best child-friendly care using the latest cutting-edge technology that results in the safest and most accurate outcomes. If you suspect your child has back pain, please call our office at (727) 898-2663.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey B. Neustadt, Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon- scoliosis and spine specialist.

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