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Backpack Safety 101

August 28, 2014


With a new school year getting underway, a New York pediatrician wants parents to be aware of an often overlooked culprit that can harm their kids’ health – a backpack.

“I think this is an underappreciated issue,” said Minu George, MD, interim chief of the division of general pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.  “Thousands of children each year have shoulder, neck and back injuries related to their improper use of a schoolbag.”

 According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, backpack-related injuries send an estimated 5,000 children a year to emergency rooms. More than 14,000 children are treated annually for injuries.

Back strains are the most common injury, notes  Dr. George, who tries to educate parents on backpack safety.

“As a pediatrician we talk with our families each year when they come for their annual checkups about the backpacks that they’re buying for their children,” she said.

When shopping for a backpack, Dr. George said to look for one that is sturdy, but lightweight, with thick shoulder straps and padding on the inside of the bag.

Parents need to have their children try on the backpack, she added, because the length shouldn’t be bigger than ¾ the length of the child’s back.

Once the backpack is bought, it’s important for parents to teach their kids to use both straps on the bag to evenly distribute the bag’s weight. Parents also need to make sure that children aren’t putting anything extra in the bag, like an iPad, that they don’t need at school.

“Young children should not have more than 10 percent of their bodyweight in the backpack,” said Dr. George. “It’s a great idea to weigh the bag once it’s packed to see what that number is in relation to your child’s weight.”


  • Media Contacts:

    Diane ODonnell
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