As a parent, you’ve probably received a school supplies shopping list for all the traditional items your child needs before returning back for another school year. However, it’s just as important to make sure your child is prepared for the new school term from an orthopedic standpoint and to follow our tips to help prevent school-related injury.
Finding the Right Backpack: Heavy backpacks are a common cause of back pain in children, though they do not cause scoliosis as some believe. When evaluating which one to use for school, consider the following:
- Backpacks should weigh 10% or less of the child’s total body weight.
- Backpacks should have wide, padded straps. Straps should be tightened to keep the load closer to the body.
- Hip or chest belts are helpful in distributing the weight of the backpack.
- Choose a lightweight backpack. Consider the weight of the backpack before any books are placed in it. The lighter the better.
- Choose a rolling backpack if it weighs more than 10% of the child’s body weight.
Scheduling a Physical Exam: An annual physical exam by your pediatrician should be scheduled around the same time every year. This exam includes a scoliosis screening as well as sports clearance if your child will be participating on a school team. If there is a family history of scoliosis, you should inform your pediatrician. The sports screening can identify any medical or musculoskeletal conditions that need to be addressed before the start of the season and help keep your child safe.
Staying Safe During Preseason Training: Most preseason training for school sports begins in August in preparation for the start of the regular season in September. This usually consists of two or more weeks of intensive conditioning. Many injuries, like sprains, strains, and stress fractures, occur during this time of transition from a less active summer to a high level of activity. In order to prevent injury…
- Be sure to perform warm-up stretches: Research has shown that warming up your muscles can prevent injury. 3-5 minutes of active stretching like jumping jacks and jogging followed by passive stretching where a stretch in each major muscle group is held for 30 seconds is recommended.
- Don’t forget cool down stretches: Research has also shown that stretching after activity can reduce muscle soreness and improve flexibility. These gentler stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds.
- Hydrate: If you are dehydrated, your body will not perform well and you become more prone to injury. Stay hydrated throughout the day, not just during exercise. During exercise, drink a cup of water for every 20 minutes of activity.
Dr. Roger Widmann has been a member of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery Service at Hospital for Special Surgery since 1995 and the Chief of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery Service since 2004. He is the Director of Pediatric Orthopaedic Trauma at New York Hospital, and is a member of the Scoliosis Service at Hospital for Special Surgery.