Parents Should Make Sure They Help Their Child Select a Good Backpack When Returning to School

Friday, September 11, 2009

Many children and teenagers carry backpacks during the school year for schoolbooks and other supplies. “When used correctly, backpacks are the most efficient way to carry a load and distribute the weight among some of the body’s strongest muscles,” says Eric Wall, MD, Director, Orthopaedic Surgery Division.

In May 2002, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported backpack related injuries sent almost 6000 students each year to emergency rooms. The American Academy of Orthopedics stated that backpack injury is a significant problem for children. A 2000 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimate states that, when backpacks are used incorrectly, more than 13,260 injuries in children 5- to 18-years-old are treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices and clinics.

The Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recommends these simple guidelines to prevent any unnecessary injuries to your child throughout the school year:

  • When choosing the right backpack look for one that is lightweight, has two wide and padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back, and waist straps. A rolling backpack is another good option if your child has to carry a very heavy load, but school terrain is much more challenging to negotiate with wheels than your average airport.
  • Always encourage your child to use both shoulder straps and make sure the straps are tight.
  • Limit your child’s backpack to no more than 15-20 percent of his/her body weight.
  • Organize your child’s supplies and books so that the heaviest items are closest to the center of his/her back and all compartments are used.
  • Persuade your child to stop at his/her locker often so they’re not carrying all of their books throughout the day.
  • When wearing or lifting a heavy backpack, remind your child to bend using both knees.
  • Do not leave backpack on floor where others can trip over it, and do not swing pack around where it may hit other people.

Back and shoulder discomfort is common with heavy backpack use. If your child complains of persistent back pain, consult with your child’s pediatrician.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 10 children’s hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 Americas Best Children’s Hospitals issue. It is #1 ranked for digestive disorders and is also highly ranked for its expertise in respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care, neurosurgery, diabetes, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

President Barack Obama in June 2009 cited Cincinnati Children’s as an island of excellence in health care. For its achievements in transforming health care, Cincinnati Children’s is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Danielle Lewis, 513-636-9473,