Ochsner physicians encourage backpack safety


With the first day of school being less than one month away in most surrounding Baton Rouge area parishes, Ochsner physicians are advising parents to make backpack safety a priority this school year. 
According to a news release, children struggle to put on their backpacks all too often. Several students also have issues with bending their backs forward and arching their backs while carrying them.

“Did you know that carrying too much weight in a backpack, or wearing it the wrong way, can cause a lot of problems for kids such as backaches, neck and shoulder pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and hands?” said Ochsner primary care physician Yolonda Webb.

“It can also weaken muscles and hurt their posture in the short and long term.”

Physicians tell us a good rule of thumb is to never load a backpack more than 15% of the student’s total body weight.

For example, a 100 pound student should not carry a fully loaded backpack that weighs more than 15 pounds.
Backpacks come in a variety of sizes for different ages and choosing the right one for your child can be overwhelming. By investing time to find the best pack, you strive toward a healthier outcome for your child.

Here are a few tips to purchase the best backpack:

  • A lightweight pack that doesn’t add a lot of weight to your child’s load and is appropriate for your child’s size.
  • The height of the backpack should extend from approximately two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above the waist.
  • Select a pack with well-padded and wide shoulder straps and one that has a padded back to protect your child from being poked from objects carried inside the pack.
  • It contains multiple compartments that help distribute the weight more evenly.

How to wear the backpack correctly and the relationship between proper wearing and injury prevention should be the focus.
Here are a few tips to properly wear a backpack:

  • Load heaviest items closest to the student’s back (back of pack near shoulder straps) and arrange books and materials so they don’t slide around by using all compartments.
  • Distribute weight evenly by wearing both straps. Wearing a pack over one shoulder may seem like a cooler trend, but it can cause a student to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits snugly on the back. The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back.
  • Encourage your child to pick up their backpack the right way to avoid back injuries; bend at the knees and grab the pack with both hands when lifting the pack to the shoulders.
  • Determining backpack weight is important and students should learn when the backpack exceeds the 15% rule so they can remove items.
  • Persuade your child to use their locker frequently throughout the day instead of carrying the entire days’ worth of books in their backpack. 

Above all, urge your child to tell you if they are in pain.
In case of injury, seek immediate medical care. For more information or to schedule an appointment with an Ochsner practitioner, call 225-761-5200 or click hereto schedule online.

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