Is your child’s backpack too heavy?

How to find out and the potential issues it can cause

As the school year kicks off with that new backpack full of school supplies, now is the time to do a safety check on your child’s back.

“Many students carry too much weight on their backs, opting to skip their lockers between classes and stuff all their books in their backpack,” said Joshua Meier, M.D., orthopedic surgeon with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville. “This not only can lead to pain and discomfort but also injury.”

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends students carry no more than 15 to 20 percent of their body weight in their backpack.

Backpack weight guide:

Child’s weight Backpack weight should not exceed
75 pounds 15 pounds
90 pounds 18 pounds
115 pounds 23 pounds
125 pounds 25 pounds
150 pounds 30 pounds
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Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville specializes in both orthopedic surgical procedures and nonsurgical orthopedic care.

  • Double up: Slinging a backpack over just one shoulder can cause tremendous neck and shoulder aches and pains. Encourage your child to double up and put a strap over each shoulder. Doing so evenly distributes the weight of the backpack and promotes better posture and fewer back injuries.
  • Create a snug fit: Students also like to wear their backpacks low. This creates pull on the back. Often, the child will try to overcompensate by arching the back or leaning forward. Tighten up the straps so the backpack fits snug against your child’s body and rests in the middle of the back.
  • Look for thick straps: Backpack straps should be wide and padded with foam to provide cushion and added support for the shoulders. Tight, narrow straps can dig into the shoulders. They can pinch nerves or interfere with circulation, especially when the backpack is weighted down.

“Take the time to talk to your child about the proper way to carry a backpack,” Dr. Meier said. “Doing so will help protect their back now and promote good back health in the future.”

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