Children's Hospital Media and Press Relations
Department of Pediatrics Newsletter Archive
Doctors at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offer Back-toSchool Tips for Backpack Safety & Injury Prevention
September 10, 2014
Media Contact:
Ashley Culver
(615) 322-4747

Throughout the country, families are adjusting to being back in school. With school now if full swing, students will be coming home with homework and roaming the halls with heavy backpacks. Doctors at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt want to warn parents that backpacks filled with heavy books, can cause painful strains, sprains and posture problems.

Jeffrey Martus, M.D, MS, assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, offers some important tips parents should know about backpack safety and injury prevention for their children.

  • Look for signs that the bag is too heavy. Numbness, tingling, or discomfort in the arms or legs may indicate an issue with the way your child is carrying his or her backpack. Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if either task causes a struggle. If the backpack seems too heavy, children should remove some of the books. As a general rule, children should carry no more than 15 to 20% of their body weight.
  • Distribute weight evenly.  Children and teenagers are often tempted to carry their bags on one shoulder. Unfortunately, putting all of the weight on one shoulder can strain that side of the child’s body. Make sure your child understands the importance of using both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed across the child’s back. Heavier items should be packed low and towards the center of the backpack. Parents should tighten the straps to keep the load closer to their child’s back.
  • Consider using a rolling backpack. The easiest way to lighten your child’s load is to take all of the weight away from their shoulders. Imagine traveling and having to carry all of your luggage on your back. Using a bag that rolls provides convenience and protection for your child.
  • Leave some books at home. It may sound simple, but many children carry all of their books, even though they may not use them every day. Encourage your child to leave books in a locker or at home if they will not be needed that day.


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