Every September parents remind their children about the potential risks of traffic and talking to strangers to and from school. However, this year I would invite you to add one more potential danger to the list—protecting your child from an old but silent predator …the backpack!
"Every year school age children make more than 13,000 backpack related office or emergency room visits in North America," reports Dr. Larry Smith D.C., B.P.E. a Chiropractor in Parksville B.C., "And in the past seven years there have been more than twenty documented studies showing that improperly worn backpacks may cause long term damage to a growing spine."
"Carrying too much weight or an improper size of backpack is leading to more and more children experiencing back pain," adds Dr. Shelley-Anne Sjonger-Appleton, President of the Council of the Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors. "The important point is it is preventable. Parents, teachers and students need to be aware of the health and safety risks of an overloaded pack."
A heavy load, distributed improperly or unevenly, day after day, is indeed going to cause stress to a growing spinal column, reminding us of the old adage, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
A properly worn backpack with the right attributes can make the difference between experiencing shoulder, neck or back pain and being pain-free. To assist parents, Backpack Safety America (http://www.backpacksafe.com) has compiled a list of important safety considerations when using a backpack:
- Choose right. Choosing the right size backpack is the first and most important step to safe backpack use. The proper size backpack is 75 percent of the length of a child’s back, approximately the space between the shoulder blades and waist.
- Pack right. The maximum weight of the loaded backpack should not exceed 15 percent of your body weight. Pack only what you need for the day. Carry a book or two by hand to relieve the load if necessary. If the backpack forces the wearer to lean forward to carry, it’s overloaded.
- Lift right. Face the pack. Bend at the knees. Using both hands, check the weight of the pack. Lift with your legs. Apply one shoulder strap at a time. Avoid slinging the pack onto your back.
- Wear it right. Use both shoulder straps at all times to avoid unnecessary pressure to one side of your body. Make the shoulder straps snug, but not too tight. When your backpack has a waist strap, use it to stabilize the load.
- Don’t Wear it Too Low: The backpack should never hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low causes your child to lean forward when walking.
The backpack itself is not the cause of problems as much as the fact that children simply haven’t been shown or taught proper methods of packing, lifting and carrying them. As parents it is important that we help ensure our children are aware of proper backpack usage. So as the new school year is about to begin, why not strike up a conversation with your children about their backpacks—helping to ensure they know how to "pack it light and wear it right."
About the author
As an award-winning educator and Parenting & Youth Coach, Rob Stringer BA, BEd, CPC has spent almost two decades helping kids, teens, and adults meet with success, and live lives they LOVE!. Although based outside of Toronto Ontario, Rob’s coaching practice is global, with clients across Canada, the United States, Australia, and Asia. In addition to Parenting with Intention, he most recently launched, Youth Coach Canada – a non-profit organization dedicated to making affordable professional life coaching services available to youth aged 11-21.
Interested in having Rob speak at your child’s school? For more information on speaking engagements, programs, and upcoming workshops for parents and youth, visit www.YouthCoachCanada.com or call 905.515.9822.