February 7, 2016

Backpacks can be a real pain

Backpack -- perhaps a tad too big.

Spencer wears a backpack correctly with padded straps over both shoulders, but demonstrates the wrong size for his small frame.

With school right around the corner, there’s a warning about aches and pains from the misuse of backpacks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there has been a 300 percent increase in the number of backpack-related back injuries over the last 17 years.

Doctor Douglas Keehn with Advanced Pain Management in Madison says it’s important to make sure the backpack is not too big or too small for the child’s frame and be cognizant of what’s in it. “How do you find the right backpack and fit it appropriately and then how do you load it appropriately? By doing those things,” he says, “it makes a lot of sense that we would probably be able to reduce the number of backpack-related injuries that we have each year.”

An estimated 14,000 individuals seek medical care for backpack related injuries every year, including 7,000 folks who visit the emergency room for injuries associated with carrying a backpack.

And what kind of injuries? Keehn says they are usually sprains and strains — muscular issues.

AUDIO:  Dr. Keehn gives advice on choosing a good backpack, how to wear it, and load it. 2:19

Keehn says the weight of the fully-loaded backpack should not be more than 10 to 15 percent of the student’s total body weight. He offers a few tips: Find the right bag, adjust the straps — which should be wide and padded over the shoulders, pack properly to distribute the weight, use both straps, lift with the knees, and don’t pack what you don’t need.

The weight really adds up when considering text books, laptops, notebooks, cell phones, and other items. Also, Keehn says kids need to use both straps to distribute the weight. He advises everyone not to just sling the loaded backpack over one shoulder.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:11

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