What child does not get excited when choosing his/her backpack for the new school year? Besides looking at what superhero or princess is on the backpack, there are several characteristics to look for when purchasing a backpack to prevent injuries. Backpacks can be very problematic for posture and body mechanics. The most common injuries occur at the neck, shoulders, and back from poor use and size of the backpacks. Here are a few tips to get your child prepared for the upcoming school year:

Size and Fit

The backpack should sit just below the shoulders and no more than 4 inches below the waist. It should match the size of their torso. The straps should not be loose and should be padded to help distribute the weight across the shoulders. In addition, avoid single strap use over one shoulder. Also, utilize the chest strap or waist strap on a backpack to help distribute weight from the back. Backpacks on wheels are a great option; however, purchase one with a handle that is the appropriate size for the child to avoid excessive leaning when too short of a handle or shoulder hiking when the handle is too tall.


When loading the backpack, place the heavier items closest to the back. The weight should sit at the child’s mid back region. Empty the backpack weekly to remove unnecessary weight from the backpack. According to the American Physical Therapy Association the load inside a backpack should be no more than 15% of the child’s body weight. The child should be able to maintain an upright posture without an forward lean to manage the backpack.

Size and Fit

Monitor the child for complaints of tingling or numbness, redness, pain, difficulty removing backpack, and poor posture. If a child develops pain, a physical therapist can examine a child and assess proper fit for a backpack as well as develop a plan to prevent problems in the future.

Article by Victoria Luddy