Orthopaedic surgeons share backpack safety tips

Local - 8/22/2013 5:02 PM by Rebecca Turco

BECKLEY - Now that students across southern West Virginia are back to school, orthopaedic surgeons are offering safety tips for those feeling the strains from heavy backpacks.

Backpacks are designed to distribute the weight of the load across some of the body's strongest muscles. Sprains, strains and posture problems can occur when backpacks are worn incorrectly, according to orthopaedic surgeons.

"If things are worn off-center either to the left or to the right or too high, [the body] becomes unbalanced," explained Dr. Brett Whitfield of Plateau Medical Center.

Children who are overweight often experience worse straining from heavy backpacks. “Kids who are obese or heavy, their muscle tone is also not very good,” said Dr. Syed A. Zahir of Woodland Medical Park. He recommend adolescents strengthen their muscles to help carry the backpack’s weight.

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Here is the list of safety tips from the West Virginia Orthopaedic Society, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America:

  • Kids should carry no more than 15-20 percent of their body weight.
  • Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back.
  • Remove or organize items if too heavy and pack the heavier things low and towards the center.
  • When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.
  • School backpacks are for schoolwork. Carry only those that are required for the day; if possible, leave books at home or school.
  • At home and at school, keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping.

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