Have you ever worried about your child’s schoolbag and how heavy it is? Or maybe you’re in the market for a new school bag, but not sure which provides the best back support for your child? Here David Fitzgerald from Dublin Physiotherapy shares his 10 tips for school bag safety.
Back to school time is a good time to think about schoolbag safety and your child’s long-term musculoskeletal welfare.
One of the most important factors to bear in mind about that schoolbag safety is the duration for which the bag will be carried. A couple of minutes from schoolyard to classroom would be unlikely to cause harm, even if heavily loaded, whereas 20 minutes with 20% more than the recommended load with increased the risk factor substantially.
Recommended Weight Tolerance
The recommended weight tolerance should be no more than 15% of your child’s body weight.
This can be calculated simply by
- Measuring child’s body weight
- Measuring child’s and schoolbag weight
- Subtract 1 from 2 to get the bag weight (alternatively weigh the bag separately)
- Calculate the percentage by dividing the bag weight by the child’s weight and multiply the answer by 100
Example: Child weight 100 lbs, bag weight 20 lbs, 20/100 = 0.2 X 100 = 20% (so the bag is 5% over weight)
10 Tips for Schoolbag Safety
There are several aspects of bag design which help to distribute and absorb load and thereby minimize musculoskeletal stress. The following is a list of things to lookout for when selecting and using a backpack or bag.
Broad straps distribute the pressure across the shoulders more evenly. This reduces the chances of compressing the muscles joining the neck and shoulder and irritating the nerves which are located in this area.
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#2. Look for padded straps
Padded straps at least in the contact points around shoulders will help with load distribution and minimize the risks outlined above.
#3. Check the size
The schoolbag should be sized relative to the torso of a child. An easy visual assessment would see the bag located between the base of the neck and above the waistline. The actual capacity of the bag (measured in liters) can vary quite considerably depending on the number of pockets or chambers included.
#4. Middle or side compartments are better
Compartments located in the middle or sides of the bag are generally better than ones added onto the back. In general the deeper the bag from front to back the bigger the leverage on the spine and more muscle work would be required to balance the load.
A body strap around base of the bag is ideal but less commonly found on most schoolbags. This helps by providing another point of attachment onto the body and also helps to anchor the bag in position thereby reducing muscle effort required to stabilize the bag.
#6. Filling the bag up
Place the heaviest items / books closest to the child’s back to reduce leverage on the spine.
#7. Pack bag contents tightly
Try to pack bag contents tightly to minimize movement within the back. This helps to reduce unexpected pressure and a change of bag position on the back.
#8. Use both shoulder straps
To ensure even weight distribution make sure that both shoulder straps are used to distribute the weight evenly.
#9. Tighten the shoulder straps
Make sure the shoulder straps are sufficiently tight to prevent bag hanging away from the spine. This creates longer leverage and requires more counteracting muscle work.
#10. Planning bag load
It is worthwhile purchasing a bag which has compartments which can be used to store items which need quick and easy access to ie pens, pencils sharpeners, rulers, lunch box etc. This prevents constant rummaging through the bag.
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One final note is that if you see your child incline forwards to counterbalance the bag then that’s a sign that they are unable to manage the weight even if it falls within the recommended guidelines.
Unfortunately, some factors are outside parental control regarding the number of books required, storage and transport so it may not always be possible to conform to the ideal.
I hope this article provided some useful information to allow you make informed decisions regarding schoolbag safety for your child. If in doubt, your nearest Chartered Physiotherapist will be able to advise you.
Check out our blog at Dublin Physiotherapy Clinic for regular postings and useful tips on musculoskeletal health matters.
Check out our Back to School section for lots more great ideas.
Do you worry about your child’s heavy schoolbag? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below