National Backpack Awareness Day™
This school year, there are more than 80 million students across the United States back in school. If you take a close look at some of these students, you will see that many of them are struggling under the weight of their overloaded backpack. Further, each year more than 22,000 students suffer strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures from overloaded, incorrectly sized, or improperly worn backpacks. To draw attention to this avoidable danger to our nation’s students, the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) promotes National Backpack Awareness Day™ on the third Wednesday of each September. This year’s awareness events are being held on Wednesday, September 20th.
To support raising awareness around backpack safety, the AOTA has a variety of resources for parents and school administrators to review and share with others. These include a video about choosing and packing a backpack, proper ways to wear a backpack, and strategies for parents and students.
Let’s review the main strategies that are promoted by the AOTA in selecting the proper backpack for your student.
- Your child’s backpack should be sized appropriately. While, hand-me-downs may save you a few dollars, having a younger sibling use an older student’s used backpack may cause more harm than good. The correct height of the pack should extend from 2 inches below the shoulder and down to waist level.
- The backpack’s weight should be “shouldered evenly.” A good backpack will have well-padded straps that fit snugly across both shoulders. This will ensure that the weight is evenly distributed across the entire back. Discourage your child from trying to carry the pack across one shoulder, like a sack. This practice is a strain waiting to happen.
- A good backpack will have straps that cross the hips and the chest. These extra belts are critical for alleviating strain in the neck and shoulder area. Many students will ignore these straps and leave them dangling. If you see your child ignoring these front straps, explain their importance in maintaining balance and protecting vulnerable muscle groups.
- Try the backpack on for size! Yes, you can find some great deals online when shopping for backpacks, but it is more important that you properly size the backpack first. Take the time to try on backpacks at your local retailer. By first properly sizing the pack on your student, you can use the measurements to make a more informed online choice. If you are insistent on shopping online, make sure the seller has a good return policy in case the pack doesn’t fit properly when received. The size and fit are the most important criteria when selecting a backpack!
Lastly, just because you have painstakingly selected the perfect sized backpack for your child, the process of achieving true backpack safety hasn’t ended. Even the best backpack will not protect your student from overloading the pack in an attempt to bring everything, including the kitchen sink, back and forth to class each day. A good rule of thumb is that your child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10% of his or her body weight! Using that rule, your 75-pound child should carry a pack that weighs 7.5 pounds or less. If this is not the case, your first act is to remove the kitchen sink from the pack, then see what other items can be left at home or in a locker at school to jettison some of the weight. If you find that the backpack is still overloaded after removing unnecessary items, it is time to find a backpack with wheels and save your child’s back and shoulders.
Are you planning, or volunteering to help your child’s school with a Backpack Awareness Event? Please share your thoughts about Backpack Awareness and Safety in our comment section below. Or drop us a line on our Facebook page, we would love to hear from you.