Back to School Orthopedic Checklist

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.

Widmann 2 NOTHighRes Dr. Roger F. Widmann

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.

Topics: Featured, Pediatrics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.