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Norwalk Daily Voice serves Norwalk & Rowayton

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Don't Overload Your Kid's Backpack

You know school has begun when you catch a glimpse of a sea of wildly colored and designed backpacks riding the backs of children everywhere. But wait a minute: do some of those packs weigh more than the children carrying them? And even if they're not that heavy, are children carrying them in such a way that could be potentially damaging?

Backpacks are designed to distribute weight among some of the body's strongest muscles. When used correctly, they're a fine way to carry the necessities of the school day. But when backpacks are too heavy, which, according to , usually classifies as more than 20 percent of a child's body weight, they can injure muscles and joints. A heavy backpack can potentially lead to severe back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems for children and teenagers. Although many factors can lead to back pain — increased participation in sports or exercise, poor posture while sitting, and long periods of inactivity — some kids have backaches because they're lugging around an entire locker's worth of books all day long.

Children should always use both shoulder straps and tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. When choosing a backpack, parents should look for some of the following features:

Wide, padded shoulder straps

Two shoulder straps

A padded back

A waist strap

A lightweight backpack

Correct use of both shoulder straps will help distribute the weight of the backpack. Parents should remind children to pack light, remove unnecessary items and always lift the backpack properly.

Parents can also help prevent injuries by teaming up with schools to advocate for safe backpack practices. Parents and teachers should encourage students to carry only the necessary items home to complete their homework.

For more information, visit American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website.

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