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Ergonomic Backpacks: The Smart Way to Go

Is Your Child's Backpack a Safe Choice?

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Backpacks are a great way to keep all the books, notebooks and school supplies together and kids love to pick out "cool" designs that exhibit their individual tastes. But a recent study done by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reported that a bookpack that is too heavy or improperly worn doesn't make the mark.

The APTA reported that 55 percent of the children surveyed, carried loaded down backpacks that were heavier than 15 percent of their body weight. According to safety guidelines reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the maximum that a child should carry in their backpack should not exceed 10 percent to 20 percent of their body weight.

Back and Neck Strains and Pain

How a child carries their backpack is also important to avoid strains and possible back injury. Keeping the weight positioned so that it is balanced is important. Many kids tend to sling their backpacks over one shoulder instead of utilizing the back straps.

Tips on How to Safely Wear a Backpack

Use Both Shoulder Straps and Pack Belts
Using just one strap causes an inbalance of weight and adds stress to one side of the body. It also forces the wearer to adjust their posture in an uneven manner. By wearing both straps and belts, the weight is distributed and proper posture is promoted.

Place the Backpack Over the Mid-Back Muscles
Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack is properly placed on the mid-section of the back. Loose straps will allow the pack to slip so insure that they are tight enough to stay in place. The straps should be placed so that the child has free movement of their arms and do not have to struggle to remove the pack. Avoid getting a pack that is too large for a child.

Weigh the Pack to Insure it Isn't Overloaded.
Placing it on a scale will allow you to determine if it is meeting the weight recommendations of not exceeding 10 percent to 20 percent of their body weight.

Pack Only What is Needed for That Day
Kids have a way of turning their packpack into a closet by putting everything they like inside but not necessarily everything they need. Remove the contents on a regular basis and remove the items that are not necessary. Take the time to show your child how to repack the items in compartments and not just dumping it into the main pouch.

Tips for Buying Safely Designed Packs

  • Padded backs to help reduce pressure on shoulders, arms and back.

  • Belts for the hip and chest to aide in proper weight distribution.

  • Multiple compartments so that items can be placed in the pack with better balance and distribution plus keeping them secure and easy to access.

  • Stabilizing compression straps on the sides and bottom to help secure and compress the contents.

  • Reflective patches to increase pre-dawn or night safety.

What About Wheeled Backpacks?


If you decide on a wheeled back pack, it is important that the handle extends long enough so that the child does not have to bend and twist to use it. The wheels should be large enough to keep the pack balanced when pulling it. It is not unusual to see a child walking down the street, turned slightly to the side, dragging a toppled rolling back pack behind them. Also, consider how often a child will need to take it up and down steps or lift it in and out of cars. Before making a purchase of a rolling back pack, ask the store if you can try it out, and load it up and see how it performs.

Warning Signs of an Over-loaded Backpack

  • Twisting, turning or struggling when putting on or removing the backpack

  • Posture changing when wearing, such as leaning forward, or leaning to one side.

  • Complaints of pain or discomfort from the child.

  • Tingling, red marks, numbness.

  • If you see the child dragging the pack along the ground instead of wearing it.

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