School Backpack Safety

8/11/2015

With school back in session, many students use backpacks for transporting books, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders and other items to and from the classroom. Backpack safety is key in preventing injuries.

Did you know that heavy loads carried by more than 79 million students across the United States can cause low back pain that often lasts through adulthood? That is why the weight of the backpack matters.

It is estimated that nearly 55 percent of students carry backpacks that are too heavy or improperly loaded.  Heavy and improperly carried backpacks can potentially increase the risk for developing neck, shoulder, back and spinal pain and injuries, fatigue, poor posture and breathing difficulties.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013 nearly 22,200 strains, sprains, dislocations and fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital emergency rooms, physician offices and clinics across the nation.

As a result of these findings, it is only appropriate to mention the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day, which occurs on September 16, 2015. The AOTA recommends students carry backpacks weighing no more than 10 percent of their body weight. For example, if a student weighs 100 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 10 pounds. AOTA also recommends that backpacks should not be below waist level and wearing both shoulder straps for equal distribution of weight. Organize the contents of the backpack by placing the heaviest items closest to the back.

For questions or more information regarding backpack safety, please visit www.aota.org or www.arh.org/our_services/rehabilitation_therapy.aspx. You also may call your local ARH Rehabilitation Department to discuss backpack safety.

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