Aspirus has your child’s back with these helpful backpack tips

September 21 is National School Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks are a practical and useful way to get textbooks and supplies to and from school. When used properly, they should ease your child’s load, not make it worse.


According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there was an estimated annual average of 1,200 backpack-related injuries to children under 19 years old treated in emergency rooms from 2019 to 2021.


In recognition of National School Backpack Awareness Day, Aspirus Health aims to help educate parents, caregivers and students about health risks of backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly.


“Common backpack-related injuries that we see in kids include neck pain, back pain and shoulder pain,” says Megan Stankowski PT, DPT, LAT, Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer with Aspirus. “These are avoidable, but it may require parents to observe and gently remind their kids to make some adjustments to how they use their backpacks.”


The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America offers some tips for parents to help children wear their backpacks safely and correctly:


  • Choose the right backpack. Your child’s backpack should have two broad, padded shoulder straps, a padded back, a waist or chest strap, and compartments. These features help distribute the weight of the contents more evenly throughout the body.

  • Educate your child about proper backpack wear. Keep straps on both shoulders and use the waist strap. Adjust straps to fit snugly.

  “Backpacks will probably need to be readjusted seasonally, loosening it up with a winter jacket and then tightening it back up in the spring,” says Megan.


  • Pack safely. Help your child understand how to distribute the weight properly. Put the heaviest items low and near the center of the back. Make sure the bottom of the backpack rests in the curve of the lower back. 

  • Check the weight. Make sure your child is not carrying more than 15% of his or her body weight in their backpack. If you notice them leaning forward to support the backpack’s weight, then it’s too heavy.

  • Lighten the load. Encourage your child to clean the backpack weekly and take out unneeded items, store items in a locker at school when possible, and take only what’s needed to school. Carrying heavier items in their arms will also alleviate some of that extra weight.


Megan adds, “if a child starts showing signs of injury from wearing the backpack incorrectly, the first thing the parent should do is adjust the backpack and make sure it’s fitting correctly. Check that they are packing and lifting it properly. If nothing is helping, they should seek help from their primary care provider or physical therapist.”


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