Back-to-school: Keep backpacks light and worn right

By Cleveland Clinic News Service, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - School may be back in session but many students may still be shopping for a new backpack.

According to Kim Giuliano, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Childrens, its more than simply choosing a color, style or logo safety comes into play as well.  

She said its always best to choose a backpack that has two wide padded straps and use them, because how the backpack is worn makes a difference. 

Children should get into the habit of using both shoulder straps to correctly distribute weight.

"Bags that only have one strap designed to be put over one shoulder, or putting straps over one shoulder at a time sends kids center of gravity off kilter and can cause a lot of back and shoulder discomfort, and sometimes neck discomfort," Dr. Giuliano said.

Backpacks that are worn incorrectly or that are too heavy can injure muscles and joints, which can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Other safety features to look for include a padded back, a waist strap, and a bag that's made with lightweight materials. 

Kids should pack light too - a backpack should never weigh more than 10-20 percent of a child's total body weight, and heavier items should be placed closest to the center of the back.

Dr. Giuliano said its a good idea to tighten the straps so the backpack is worn snug and close to the body.

If there's a lot of slack it can get caught on other children, doorknobs, in the hallways at school, or when getting up and off the steps of a school bus, loose straps could enable a child to get caught and potentially trip and fall, she said. 

Dr. Giuliano said once a backpack is adjusted so its snug, its also important to tie or safety-pin long, dangling straps to prevent a child from getting caught on something or tripping. 

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