The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) celebrates National Backpack Awareness Day the third Wednesday of September every year. Many children in school today are carrying too much weight in their backpacks which can result in future injuries to the back and other parts of the body. AOTA reported that “more than 2,000 backpack-related injuries were treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and clinics in 2007.” So how heavy is too heavy? The weight of the backpack should not exceed 10% of the student’s weight; therefore, a student weighing 100 pounds should carry a backpack no heavier than 10 pounds. The way the bag is packed and worn is also important. Heavier items should be packed closest to the back, with lighter items being in exterior pockets. It is also important for students to double check their homework assignments to assure that they are only packing necessary books to bring home each night, as well as utilizing lockers and cubbies for storage of unnecessary books during the school day. AOTA also suggests that “the height of the backpack should extend from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist. It is recommended that individuals always wear the backpack on both shoulders so the weight is evenly distributed.” Other red flags that may indicate a backpack is too heavy include red marks on the shoulders, a shift in posture to one side, and noticeable difficulty lifting the backpack to put on. Check out the links below for resources to give to your child’s teacher if you suspect your child’s backpack is too heavy.
Elizabeth Hughs, LOTR is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Live Oak Children’s Center.