Is your kid's backpack too heavy?

Kids, parents, and teachers are all getting ready to head back to school. One thing that is likely to be on the shopping supply list of most students are backpacks for school. There will be so many different types and styles of backpack out there on the market that it may be difficult to choose the right backpack for your child. The main things to look for are a proper fit, overall comfort, and durability. The single most important factor in selecting a good backpack is how it may affect your child's long-term health.

APTA Experts Agree: Backpacks for School Are Typically Overloaded by Students

The experts at the American Physical Therapy Association do extensive research each year on all types and styles of backpacks for school. One fact seems to bear out in almost all of their research. Kid's are wearing backpacks improperly and they are trying to put too much weight into them. They have found that most backpacks are actually causing more harm than doing good. Similar organizations in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. have found basically the same results.

Mary Ann Wilmarth, PT, DPT, MS, director of the transitional doctor of physical therapy degree program and assistant dean at Northeastern University in Boston states, "Wearing backpacks improperly or ones that are too heavy put children at increased risk for musculoskeletal injuries." Wilmarth's research was conducted based on information from Pre-K through 9th grade students in the Andover, Massachusetts area.

Why the Correct Backpack Weight is SO Important

Students who improperly carried backpacks for school, or who overloaded their packs were found to be at short-term risk for neck, shoulder, and back strain or injury. Long-term health effects from improper backpack use are yet to be determined. Researchers hypothesize that the long-term effects on a child's health could be serious unless they are educated in the proper ways to handle backpacks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Chiropractic Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association have all issued guidelines for the proper and healthy use of backpacks for school. As a general rule, the child's backpack should weigh no more than the child. In other words, if you child weighs 80 pounds, their backpack should not be heavier than 12 pounds. A child of 130 pounds can handle a backpack weighing no more than 19.5 pounds.

Advice to Parents: Get the Correct Backpack for Your Child

Typically, backpacks that are offered in most retail or discount stores are just not going to be acceptable as a healthy alternative for a backpack. The kids may really put the pressure on you to get the latest movie theme or animated cartoon character backpack because these appeal to kids. These cheap backpacks are cheap for a reason. They're usually made from sub-standard materials, are not designed to provide a comfortable fit, and may possibly have a detrimental effect on your child's health now, and possibly in the future.

Do a little research and find out how the best, top-rated backpacks for school are made and where you can purchase one. Most top-rated backpacks can be purchased for less than $50, some are even less than $30. Look for brands like JanSport®, North Face®, and L.L. Bean®. These companies have been making quality, well-fitting backpacks for many years and they know what they're doing.

A quality backpack will have adjustable and heavily padded shoulder straps, an adjustable waist belt, several interior compartments for efficient load management, and adjustable load-securing straps to help maintain overall stability. These factors are important to the overall short-term and long-term health of your child. After all, no one wants a backpack that doesn't fit right, may be uncomfortable, or may be causing health problems in the neck, shoulders, or back that may not appear for many years. Take a moment and research backpacks before you make a purchase.