National School Backpack Awareness Day - September 15
National School Backpack Awareness Day on September 15, strives to make sure students wear backpacks safely. Improper use can lead to back pain or injury, which can impact learning. On this day, teachers, students, and parents come together to make sure families are aware of the risks — and that backpacks are being worn properly. It’s for the children.
Heavy loads carried by millions of students across the U.S. can cause low back pain that often lasts through adulthood. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010 nearly 28,000 strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital emergency rooms, physicians’ offices, and clinics. “A child wearing a backpack incorrectly or that is too heavy can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and musculoskeletal pain especially in the lower back,” says Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University, and an expert on school ergonomics and healthy growth and development of school-age children.
Why is it important
It keeps students safe
Backpacks worn incorrectly can lead to pain or injury. That's why it's so important to check the weight and use them properly.
It brings the community together
National Backpack Awareness Day brings everyone together to learn about backpack safety. It's an opportunity to reach out to parents, caretakers, and students.
It helps kids
Not only is this a chance to highlight backpack safety, it's also a chance for the community to learn about the challenges their students are facing as they carry heavier packs, loaded with books and other stuff.
Due to the growing numbers of children who sustain backpack related injuries, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has designated every third Wednesday of September as National School Backpack Awareness Day-a day to educate parents, teachers, educators and kids about the serious health effects resulting from backpacks that are too heavy or improperly worn. Consider these facts:
- More than 79 million students in the United States carry school backpacks.
- More than 2,000 backpack-related injuries were treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and clinics in 2007.
- About 55% of students carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the student’s total body weight.
- In one study of American students ages 11 to 15 years, 64% reported back pain related to heavy backpacks. Twenty one percent reported the pain lasting more than six months.
- In a study on the effect of backpack education on student behavior and health, nearly eight out of ten middle school students who changed how they loaded and wore their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders.
- According to a study by Boston University, approximately 85% of university students self-report a discomfort and pain associated with backpack usage.
3 Tips for Wearing a Backpack Safely
Use both straps
Slinging your backpack on one shoulder can lead to bad posture, and injury or pain.
Adjust the height
Backpacks should be worn high on your back; they should sit an inch or two above your hips.
Use the waist and chest strap
The horizontal straps help distribute the weight and keep your load stable as you move.
Check out these resource materials from the American Occupation Therapy Association:
A proper-fitting backpack is a good way to prevent physical pain and promote wellness. At back-to-school time students may also experience school-related anxiety associated with things like making friends, bullying, or completing assignments. Occupational therapy practitioners are ready to help. Check out AOTA’s School Mental Health Toolkit, which explains occupational therapy’s role in preventing, promoting, and intervening for a range of mental health conditions and issues.