How to pick a safe back-to-school backpack

Backpacks need to be worn with some common sense about how to distribute weight.

Sam O'Keefe/The News & Advance/AP
Backpacks should be worn with two shoulder straps so the weight can be distributed evenly. Here, Kamdyn Carwile picks out a black sequined backpack.

It’s back-to-school time, and that means backpacks.

From Nike to Jansport, nearly every kid rocks a backpack of their choice. But this quintessential staple that lugs 10-pound textbooks needs to be worn with some common sense about too much weight and correct weight distribution.

Michael Jofe, the chief of spine services at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., provides tips for preventing injury, including wearing a backpack two inches above the waist, not using drawstring book bags to tote heavy objects, and not wearing one strap only.

“It’s important for the health of the child’s back,” he said. “Children care about how they look now. I care about how they look in 30 years,” Dr. Joffe says.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, nearly 28,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and emergency rooms for backpack-related injuries.

Signals that a backpack is not working well for your child include discomfort when wearing the backpack, red marks from the shoulder straps after the backpack has been removed, and struggling when putting it on or taking it off.

Lou Paradise, president and chief of research of Topical BioMedics, offers the following tips for backpack safety.

•Make sure backpacks have padded backs and straps.

•Children should use both straps – and not sling a backpack over one shoulder.

•Teach your child to pack lightly.

•A backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight.

•Straps should fit snugly over the child’s shoulders.

•Parents should pick up their child’s backpack on a regular basis to gauge its weight.

•Position it so the pack is between the shoulders and not resting on the child’s lower back or hips.

•Tighten the straps so it sits close to the body.

•Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

Things to look for in a safe back-to-school backpack:

•Two shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly.

•Wide, padded shoulder straps and padded backpacks

•Waist belt to distribute the weight more evenly across the body.

•Backpacks with wheels are an excellent choice for older students who must tote a heavy load.

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