This year’s Backpack Awareness Day™ was Wednesday, September 19, 2012. This annual event helps educate children, parents, school administrators, teachers, and the community about the serious health problems associated with wearing a backpack incorrectly. The Boston University Occupational Therapy Department works with the AOTA to provide information to families and to help ensure that the weight of kids’ backpacks exceeds no more than 10% of their body weight. Carrying too much weight in a pack or wearing it the wrong way can lead to aching back and shoulders, weakened muscles, and stooped posture.
Jacobs and graduate OT students from Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College were at the Jackson Mann School in Brighton, MA and at St. Mary of the Assumption Rectory School in Brookline, MA to weigh the backpacks of elementary school students and offer guidance on the best way to wear a backpack.
“More than 72 million American school children will be wearing a backpack to and from school every day this academic year. And as OT’s, we’re concerned about the increasingly serious problem posed by improper school backpack use,” says Jacobs. “We risk doing long-term damage to our kids’ growing bodies by remaining silent on this public health issue.”
Jacobs supports the effectiveness of backpack education. In a study, almost 8 out of 10 middle school children who had been educated on backpack safety subsequently changed how they loaded their backpacks and ultimately, reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and shoulders.
Media coverage of National School Backpack Awareness Day 2012:
For more information:
How Full is Sophia’s Backpack? (an interactive eBook)
If you would like to consult an occupational therapist about an ergonomic evaluation, talk to your child’s teacher about whether a referral to occupational therapy is appropriate. Your physician, other health professionals, and your school district’s director of special education may also be able to help.
Occupational therapy practitioners are trained in helping children with a broad range of issues in addition to ergonomics, such as good handwriting skills and developmental and behavioral problems, to help them participate more fully in the “occupation” of living. Practitioners work with children in every school district in the nation to improve skills that will help them perform daily tasks at home, at school, and at play.
For more information on occupational therapy, visit www.aota.org.