Many of the 50 million students heading off to school each morning are carrying an overweight backpack and are at risk for injuries. 

“Choosing the right backpack is important for your child’s safety,” explains Dr. Mara Karamitopoulos, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at the Maimonides Infants & Children’s Hospital. “Carrying an ill-fitting backpack places them at a higher risk for developing shoulder, neck and back pains.”

Dr. Karamitopoulos advises that backpacks should not weigh more than 10-15% of a child’s bodyweight. Check to see if he or she leans forward while wearing the backpack. If so, the backpack is too heavy.

To evenly distribute weight across the body, purchase a backpack with a waist belt to relieve stress on one area of the back. Avoid purchasing backpacks with tight, narrow straps as they can dig into shoulders and interfere with circulation. Instead, look for those with multiple compartments to help distribute weight evenly. Place the heaviest items closest to the back to keep weight off the shoulders and maintain better posture.

Dr. Karamitopoulos recommends these additional tips for selecting the best backpack for your child:
  • Purchase a lightweight backpack with padded, wide straps and a padded back. Padding provides increased comfort and protection from sharp objects. 

  • Make sure the backpack isn’t too wide or too long. A backpack should not be wider than your child’s torso and should rest slightly above his/her waist.

  • Encourage your child to drop off their books throughout the day. Transferring books to a locker or desk will reduce their load.

  • Wearing only one strap, or selecting a one-shoulder backpack, is NOT recommended. 

“Here’s one final piece of advice,” offers Dr. Karamitopoulos. “When they can’t avoid having a lot to carry, remind your children that they can hold some of their heavy items in their arms to balance the load on their backs.”

The Maimonides Infants & Children’s Hospital is Brooklyn’s first and only fully-accredited children’s hospital, offering the full array of pediatric sub-specialties. The inpatient units feature an aquatic theme with fish tanks maintained through a partnership with the New York Aquarium. For more information on the outstanding clinical services provided at the Maimonides Infants & Children’s Hospital, visit our website.

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