Your kid needs a backpack: What you need to know about safety
Parents, as you go back-to-school shopping, there are a few things you should keep in mind when picking out a proper backpack for your child.
Dr. Joseph F. Bednar, a chiropractor in North Jersey, advises buying a backpack that is sturdy and fits properly. He pointed out padded straps help alleviate pressure off the shoulders.
"Use both shoulder straps and adjust them so they're snug and not tight, and if the backpack has a waist strap, use that to help stabilize the load," Bednar said.
Bednar cautioned a backpack should not exceed approximately 15 percent of a child's weight.
Even if the weight of the backpack seems within acceptable limits, Bednar said if the child has to lean forward to carry the backpack, then it is too heavy and the load needs to be lightened up.
Bednar put the gravity of a child carrying that weight into perspective.
"Say the child lifts the backpack 10 time per day. That's 120 pounds per day. That's 180 days of the school year. So that's 21,600 pounds —and that's nearly 11 tons of weight, or six, mid-size automobiles in one year," he said.
Heavy backpacks can cause the spine to bend from its normal position, causing back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain. They can pinch nerves in and around the neck and shoulder, according to Bednar.
He noted that incorrectly wearing a backpack long-term can impact a child's health as the child gets older. That could lead to improper posture, a curvature of the spine and chronic lower back years later.
"Improper stress on the spine of any kind can cause arthritis and degenerate disc disease," Bednar said.
While bags that look like carry-on bags with wheels are good for children with disabilities that cannot carry backpacks, Bednar cautioned that in the long-term, pulling that type of backpack also can cause arm strain, if a child is pulling it over a curb or yanking it onto a bus.
"That again, will affect the neck, arms and shoulders," he said.
Bednar added to keep these four safe steps to keep in mind: choose the right backpack, pack it light, lift it right and wear it right.
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