Help Kids Build Strong Bones and Prevent Dangers of Heavy Backpacks

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries every year.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that the weight of a backpack should be less than 10-15 percent of a child’s body weight.  Backpacks that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints. This can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems.

Choosing the Best Backpack

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons you should look for the following features:

  • wide, padded shoulder straps
  • two shoulder straps
  • padded back
  • waist strap
  • lightweight backpack
  • rolling backpack

Although none of those things scream, “cool!”, it’s so important for us as parents, guardians, and kid advocates to help kids prioritize what is really important.

Tips and Tricks

  • use both shoulder straps so the weight is evenly distributed
  • tighten straps so the load is carried closer to the back
  • DON’T ignore pain
  • talk to the school about lightening the load and get other parents to campaign with you
  • make sure there’s enough time for kids to stop by their locker

Healthy Adolescent Bones

Puberty is a very important time in the development of the skeleton and peak bone mass. Half of total body calcium stores in women and up to 2/3 of calcium stores in men are made during puberty. At the end of puberty, men have about 50% more body calcium than women.

Having a regular period is important to girls’ and women’s bone health because it indicates that sufficient estrogen is being produced. Estrogen is a hormone that improves calcium absorption in the kidneys and intestines.

  • The average girl grows the fastest in height between the ages of 11 and 12 years
    • Stops growing between the ages of 14 and 15 years
    • 95% of a young woman’s peak bone mass is present by age 20
  • The average boy has his fastest rate of growth in height between ages 13 and 14.
    • Stops growing between ages 17 and 18.
    • Peak bone mass occurs 9 to 12 months after the peak rate in height growth.

Exercise. Weightbearing exercise during the teen years is essential to reach maximum bone strength, i.e. running, walking, soccer, and basketball.


Nutritional requirements. Many adolescents and young adults do not get enough calcium. Both boys and girls age 10 to 20 years need at least 1,300 mg of calcium each day, the equivalent of:

  • One cup of orange juice with added calcium
  • Two cups of milk
  • One cup of yogurt

Did you know?

  • Vitamin D supplement is necessary to ensure the calcium that adolescents do take in is absorbed in the intestines.
    • Sodas and carbonated beverages should be avoided for many nutritional reasons, including for bone health and to prevent obesity.
    • Sodas decrease calcium absorption in the intestines and contain empty calories.
  • Milk, calcium-fortified juices, and water are better beverage alternatives for all age groups.

AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day

Join the American Occupational Therapy Associations (AOTA) and occupational therapy practitioners, educators, and students across the country as we help others Live Life To Its Fullest by avoiding the pain and injury that can come from heavy backpacks and bags.

  • Students, parents, educators, school administrators, and community members will learn safety tips to stay protected from back pain throughout life.
  • You have the chance to help by organizing local events and educating people of all ages about proper bag usage.
  • Teach others how to properly choose, pack, lift, and carry various types of bags—including backpacks, purses, briefcases, and suitcases.
  • Celebrate American Occupational Therapy Association’s National School Backpack Awareness Day annually on the third Wednesday of each September.
  • See more at:

Ideas for having a successful Backpack Day Event here.  Backpack Day Handouts, Artwork, and Video here.

The Dangers Of Heavy Backpacks -- And How Kids Can Wear Them Safely
Image from Huffington Post

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