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August 28, 2017 | Health Advice

Backpack Awareness Day

How heavy is your child’s backpack?

Backpack Awareness Day is September 20th. The school season is once again starting, and with it comes the excitement of shopping for your child’s school supplies. Your child will undoubtedly need a backpack to carry all of their belongings for the year. It’s important that when purchasing a backpack you help your child select one based on functionality and safety, not just design or special features. You should also spend time teaching your child how to properly load and carry their backpacks to help prevent back shoulder, and neck injuries.

Selecting the Right Backpack

You wouldn’t want your child wearing clothes or shoes that don’t fit properly, just as you wouldn’t want them to have an ill-fitting backpack that could end up causing an injury. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, an estimated 22,000 backpack-related injuries occurred in 2013, which resulted in visits to hospital rooms, clinics, and physicians. You can avoid these injuries by purchasing a backpack that fits your child. When selecting a backpack, first make sure it’s an appropriate size- the backpack should fall about 2 inches below the shoulder and should sit at or slightly above your child’s waist.  Look for comfortable and well-padded shoulder straps. Cushioning can help alleviate some of the discomforts that may come from a heavy backpack.

Loading a Backpack

By properly loading your child’s backpack and teaching your child to do the same, you can help prevent lifelong injuries. Here are some important tips from AOTA to load and wear a backpack:

  • Your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your child’s body weight. Don’t weigh down a backpack with items that are unnecessary- this can cause extra strain.
  • The heaviest items should be loaded closest to your child’s back for an even distribution of weight. Arrange the items to that they will not slide around in the backpack. Be sure to utilize all pockets of the backpack- this will allow for better balance for your child.
  • If the backpack is too heavy, have your child carry items outside of the backpack, like a textbook or lunchbox.

Wearing a Backpack

  • Both straps should be used at all times to allow proper balance. Spinal curves and injuries can occur from wearing the backpack over only one shoulder.
  • Your child’s backpack should fit closely to their body. Do not let the backpack hang low. This can cause shoulder strain and injury.
  • Waist belts are intended to help assist in balance. If your child’s backpack has a belt strap, teach them how to properly use it. This can help distribute the weight of heavy materials, as well as improve your child’s balance.

For the Parents

Children are not the only ones that need to be aware of what they carry. Here are a few things parents should take a look at may cause potential neck, shoulder and back problems.


  • Over the years, purses have grown larger to accommodate the daily load that women carry every day. Although these large purses seem convenient, they’re also potentially causing future neck, shoulder, and back problems.


  • Many men and women haul documents, laptops, and notebook computers back and forth to work each day. If improperly packed and carried, these briefcases can cause serious neck, shoulder, and back problems.


  • Suitcases can be a burden to the already stressful task of traveling. If properly packed and carried, consumers can travel stress-free and avoid the aches and pains associated with heavy suitcases.

AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day is September 20th. Make sure that you and your child are aware of how to properly utilize a backpack and avoid a backpack related injury. Pack it light. Wear it right!