With the start of the school year right around the corner, parents should be aware of an important, but often overlooked safety issue for their children.

Michael Loccisano, Getty Images
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Backpack-related injuries force nearly 5,000 children to the emergency room each year.

Those injuries typically occur in the back, neck and shoulder areas with kids experiencing a multitude of different pains and ailments.

“They have quite a bit of trouble with pain and discomfort, muscular tightness, and curve changes because of these backpacks,” said Dr. Jeannine Baer, of the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors.

Other possible injuries include spasms, pinched nerves and posture problems.

In fact, the American Chiropractic Association has put out recommended guidelines for just how much weight children should be carrying in their backpacks, along with many other useful tips.

“The backpack should really be less than 10 to 15 percent of your child’s total body weight,” Baer said.

Another New Jersey chiropractor, Dr. Joseph Bednar, said if a child is bent forward at the waist with his backpack on, that means it is too heavy.

He, too, believes that backpack should be about 15 percent of their body weight. Bednar even recommends that parents load up their kid’s backpack with books and supplies, put it on the scale, and then do the math from there.

Most experts agree, though, that this issue goes beyond just the pure weight of the backpack. The type of bag a child uses is extremely vital, too.

Dr. Baer said kids want to look cool at school, so it often becomes a tug-of-war between style and safety.

“The best kind of backpack for your kids to be wearing is the two shoulder strap backpack,” she explained. “And they really should be wearing it on both shoulders. That should be a non-negotiable.”

She urged parents to make sure the backpacks are adjusted high and tight, not allowing it to sit loose and hang low.

Baer said she comes across most of these injury cases for kids between 7th and 10th grades as their workload increases and they get acclimated to either middle or high-school. She said they typically happen in the early part of the school-year since many students are not 100 percent confident yet in their assignment and note-taking skills.

That could often lead to lugging around and taking home more books than usual to make sure they have their bases covered.

The doctors also stressed the importance of not flinging the backpack over your shoulders when you lift it. Instead, they suggest using your legs while picking it up.

Bednar shared four simple tips for parents to ensure backpack safety for their children.

“Choose right, pack right, lift right, wear right,” he said.

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