Challenger School

The Lowdown on Backpack Safety


For many years, backpacks have been the preferred bag choice for students to carry all of their daily school necessities. Backpacks help distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles. However, if not worn correctly, they can be the source of injury.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 28,100 individuals were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries related to backpacks in 2014, and more than 8,300 of those injuries were kids 5-18 years old.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) urge parents and kids to consider lightening the load of backpacks to help avoid backpack-related injuries.


“The effects of carrying an overloaded backpack should not be taken lightly,” said orthopaedic spine surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Afshin Razi, MD. “Injuries to the muscles and joints can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems that can take weeks or months to heal. The good news is that many schools are shifting to having electronic text books rather than having students carry around heavy books.”


AAOS and POSNA recommend the following tips to help eliminate discomfort and reduce the risk of backpack-related injuries.

  • 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. A crossbody bag can also be a good  alternative. Depending on the child’s commute and accessibility of school, roller bags may be an option.
  • 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 items 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 over them.

Parents also can help with backpack-related pain:

  • Encourage your child or teenager to tell you about numbness or tingling in the arms or legs which may indicate poor fit or too much weight being carried.
  •  If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease load on the back.
  • Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of your child.
  • Watch your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle.
  • Encourage your child to stop at their locker throughout the day, as time permits, to drop off heavier books.

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