Backpack safety may help prevent injuries
Millions of people wear backpacks every day. But surprisingly, many of them do not understand how to properly wear a backpack.
“The statistics are in that you can injure yourself by not wearing a backpack properly,” says Everett Lohman III, DPTSc, professor of physical therapy in the School of Allied Health Professions.
Back and neck injuries, nerve damage, and even shoulder dislocation can occur as a result of improper backpack use.
To avoid the risk of such injuries, starting with a good backpack is key. Look for one that has wide, padded shoulder straps, straps for the chest and hips to keep the weight close to the body, and support for the lumbar and cervical areas of the spine.
But even a perfect backpack can injure you if you wear it improperly or load it too heavily. When wearing backpacks, common mistakes people make include using only one of the shoulder straps and trying to carry too much stuff.
What goes inside a backpack is also important. Backpacks should be loaded with the heaviest, bulkiest items closest to the body. Loma Linda University researchers have found that when children carry backpacks weighing more than 15 percent of their body weight, their spines curve to compensate for the extra pounds.
Unfortunately, many students do carry backpacks that are too heavy.
A Boston study found that 55 percent of children surveyed carried backpacks weighing more than 15 percent of their body weight.
The 15 percent rule only applies if the student wears both straps of the backpack. For students who sling their packs over one shoulder, it should weigh no more than 10 percent of body weight.
“Parents buy their kids the most expensive, biggest backpack they can find.” says Dr. Lohman. “The problem with that is if you have a huge backpack, you can get a lot of books in there,”
By Heather Reifsnyder