Have you picked up your child’s backpack lately? With books, computers and other supplies, they can weigh 50 pounds or more. As children head back to school, consumer safety groups are warning about the dangers of heavy, bulky backpacks.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 14,000 children are treated each year for backpack injuries, with an estimated 5,000 children going to emergency rooms. While most are from fractures and sprains from falling or tripping with a backpack, more and more injuries to the back and spine are being reported. The American Occupational Therapy Association warns that overloaded bags and backpacks can cause neck and low back pain that often last through adulthood.

The National Safety Council and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons have developed these safety tips for parents and students.

A Proper Backpack Should:

  • Have an ergonomic design
  • Fit your child
  • Come with wide, padded shoulder straps
  • Provide padded back support
  • Include hip and chest belts to transfer weight to hips and torso
  • Contain multiple compartments and pockets to distribute weight and provide easy access to contents
  • Have compression straps

To Prevent Injury:

  • It should weigh no more than 15-20 percent of the child’s body weight
  • It should always be worn with both straps
  • It should be worn high and tight
  • The weight should be evenly distributed with heavier things low and towards the center
  • It must be lifted properly with knees bent
  • Students should consider a bag with wheels

Warning Signs:

  • Your child has a change in posture while wearing it
  • Your child struggles when putting on or taking it off
  • Your child complains about pain
  • There is tingling or numbness
  • You see red marks after they take the pack off

More information and safety tips are available from the American Occupational Therapy Association, which sponsors the annual Backpack Awareness Day on the third Wednesday of September.

California Casualty’s  $2,500 Academic Award is helping students lighten their backpacks by providing educators with the classroom supplies and materials they need. The details and application form can be found at

It’s also a great time to check that your auto and home insurance fits your needs. Call a California Casualty advisor today for a policy comparison or review at 1.800.800.9410 or visit

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This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and nurses. Get a quote at 1.800.800.9410 or


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