Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

August 24, 2015

Backpack safety tips from a physical therapist

Gail Fennimore LPT, PCS, physical therapist at Child and Family Development, shares these suggestions on backpack safety on the first day of school for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.  

She says one of the aspects of being a physical therapist that she likes best is the opportunity to intertwine prevention, safety and wellness into her practice.  This is particularly important when working with children.  They have a very long life ahead of them, and it is important to treat our bodies right from the start.  One area every school age child and their parents need to pay attention to is their backpack.


Choosing the “perfect” backpack is one of the most important decisions in getting ready for school.  Of course, some of the key elements are color, logo, pockets for Ipad, and shape .  In the past few years whether to have or not have wheels has been added to the list.  But, how many times do parents consider the size of the pack in relation to their child’s size?  Here are some research-based suggestions:  

What are the best features for a backpack?

  • 2 wide padded shoulder straps
  • padded back
  • waist strap 
  • lightweight material 
  • multiple compartments to organize
How do you wear a backpack correctly and safely?
  • place both straps on shoulders and pull snug
  • fasten the waist strap 
  • pack should sit 2″ above the child’s waist 
  • pack heaviest books closest to the back 
  • wear the pack don’t carry it 
  • the pack should weigh only 10-15% of your child’s weight 
  • pick the pack up with two hands and place on a table to put on the floor
Tips for safely using a backpack:
  • pick the correct size pack
  • do not over load the pack  
  • pack heaviest items close to the body  
  • put on & take off the pack with two hands and preferably where it can be sat on a counter or table
  • always place your pack out of the aisle  
  • never fling a pack
What are the most common injuries to children from backpacks?
Most parents and professionals might guess that back injuries are the most common injuries to children from backpacks, but that is not so.  The most common injury is to the head and face of a child from either tripping over packs (many parents may relate to this from the number of times they have tripped on their children’s packs) or being hit by packs.  There is a significant amount of back pain among children and adolescents, but it cannot be clearly associated with backpack wearing.  The next most common injury is to the shoulder.  In fact the weakest link in managing the load carried by a backpack is the shoulder.

Gail’s latest pick is from Dakine that offer backpacks with waist straps and a discount on the first purchase! 

Have a fun and safe back-to-school time!