Backpack Safety and Awareness

Posted on July 13th, 2012 by Denise | No Comments

Backpack Safety and Awareness


Denise Koonce OTR

We as a society, in our attempts to improve the education of our children, have created a situation that could cause physical problems or injuries at a young age.  I am speaking of the significant amount of books and paperwork that goes from school to home and back each day.  In most cases, these items are carried with a backpack.  Every year hundreds of children are treated for backpack related injuries.  In addition, improper wearing of the backpack over time can alter their muscles and spine creating the possibility of long term problems in their future.  For this reason the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) began a National Campaign for Backpack Awareness several years ago and the event is held in September every year.  AOTA began their awareness program to increase the general public’s knowledge on the possibility of injury and provide insight and education on how to properly use a backpack.   

However, since most parents in our area will need to purchase a new backpack in preparation for the 2012-2013 school year beginning in August, I thought I would share some of AOTA’s great information and safety advice now.  This way you can make a more informed decision regarding backpacks and how to use them prior to school starting.  Some of the signs and symptoms that their current backpack is either not properly adjusted,  the wrong size, or to heavy can come as complaints of back and neck pain, tingling arms, weakened muscles, and/or a stooped posture.  Due to the fact that this activity is so repetitive in their routine these problems can appear within a relatively short period of time.

Below are some of the highlights of the AOTA Backpack Awareness Program.  For complete information and guidelines please go to .

Suggestions for loading a pack:

  • A child’s backpack should be no more than 15% of his or her body weight.  For example if your child weighs 80 pounds they should not carry more than 12.5 pounds. 
  • Load the heaviest items up against the child’s back.
  • If a backpack is too heavy on a regular basis then try a backpack with wheels.

Suggestions for proper pack wearing techniques:

  • Distribute the weight evenly by using both straps over the shoulders.  Do not wear the backpack over just one shoulder. 
  • Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps.
  • Adjust the straps so that the pack fits snugly against the child’s back.
  • Place the top of the backpack about 2 inches below the shoulder blades and the bottom of the pack should rest at or just below the waistline.
  • School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages.  Choose the right size for your child’s dimensions.

So in addition to our society’s desire to offer a better education, is our nation’s ability to provide options.  Whether it is black with blue strips, pink with paisley, Spiderman, Camouflage, or Hello Kitty, if you use the above suggestions you can choose wisely.  We hope your upcoming school year gets off to a wonderful safe start knowing your child’s backpack will not be a cause of concern.  Watch our website for the date and time of our upcoming Backpack Awareness Event.

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