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Tips for Backpack Safety

It is the new school year and one of the common accessories students have can also cause health problems if not used properly. It is the backpack. Each year, backpacks cause an estimated 7,000 injuries seen in emergency rooms. Creighton University offers the following tips to backpack users and parents on how select backpacks out, how to load them, and how they should be worn. Remember the phrase: “Pack it light, wear it right.”

The video at featuring Jacy VerMaas-Lee, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy at Creighton University, provides an overview of backpack safety.

Here are a few tips:


  • Match the person’s size with the size of the backpack. The pack should fit on the back and go down to the curve of the lower back. It shouldn’t extend more than four inches past the waist.
  • Look for wide and well-padded shoulder straps. This helps distribute the weight of the bag. Too much pressure on the shoulders can cause pain in the neck and tingling or numbness in the hands or arms.


  • Backpacks shouldn’t exceed 15 percent of a person’s weight. So, if a child weighs 80 pounds, the pack shouldn’t exceed 12 pounds.
  • Also, heavier items should be placed closer to the person’s center of gravity.

Wearing a backpack:

  • Wear both shoulder straps. Wearing a bag slung over one side causes a person to bend to that side. This curves the spine and can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Adjust the straps so the pack fits snugly against the person’s back. Loose backpacks pull the child backward and strain muscles.

Medical attention:

  • If a student complains of pain, tingling or numbness, talk to your physician.

Creighton Medical Associates (CMA) is a multispecialty faculty group supporting the clinical and academic missions of Creighton University School of Medicine. Organized in 1994, CMA has 200 physicians and midlevel providers representing 36 specialties. As a division of the School of Medicine, CMA serves more than 100,000 patients annually at the Creighton University Medical Center, community-based clinics in the Omaha metropolitan area, and rural outreach clinics in Iowa and Nebraska.

Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.