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Canada Safety Council urges proper use of student backpacks

School is back in session for most students, and with the new school year comes new schoolbooks, new supplies and new binders full of new homework.

School is back in session for most students, and with the new school year comes new schoolbooks, new supplies and new binders full of new homework. With so many new things on the horizon, make sure your children don’t fall into old habits when it comes to their backpack use, states a release from the Canada Safety Council.

There are many ways that backpacks are misused or lead to injury, including overloaded bags, bags that are slung over only one shoulder and the style of the bag being used. The Canada Safety Council urges you to keep a close eye on your child’s use of their backpack and prevent back, spine or arm injuries before they happen.

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) recommends thorough research when picking a backpack to use. Keep the following key features in mind when deciding which bag to use:

Fit the bag to the user. There’s a temptation to get a larger bag because it will enable its user to carry more. Don’t fall victim to this thinking. Focus on getting a backpack that is comfortable, whose shoulder straps don’t dig into the shoulders, and that doesn’t extend beyond the curvature at the bottom of the back. Arms should have a full and free range of mobility, and the pack should sit around the middle of the back instead of sagging toward the bottom.

Keep weight manageable. More compartments allow the backpack’s user to better balance the weight across the pack. Additionally, bags made out of lightweight materials are naturally less heavy than backpacks made with thicker materials. Look for bags made of canvas or, if you’re worried about rain or snow, nylon. According to the CPA, a fully loaded backpack should not cent of its user’s body weight.

The more padding, the better. Focus on padding in the back area, which will reduce the pressure, and the shoulder straps, making sure the latter are at least two inches wide. This will help distribute the weight more evenly across the shoulders. A waist belt or strap can also help distribute some of the load to the pelvis, making for even less weight being carried on the back.

Having the right tools for the job is a significant part of staying safe and uninjured, but that’s only one part of the equation. Behaviour also has a major impact on safety. Remember to be smart when using your backpack and follow these tips:

Use both straps. Slinging a bag over only one shoulder causes that shoulder to carry the whole load. This can lead to problems that include an adaptive curve in the spine, an overuse of soft tissue muscles in the neck as well as back pain. Using both straps distributes the weight more evenly and reduces the pressure put on the back.

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