As children are preparing to go back to school this month, parents should keep in mind the following orthopedics check-list:
1. Backpacks: Back-to-school shopping usually includes a new backpack. There are a few things to keep in mind as you are shopping. The size of the pack should not be larger than the size of the child’s back. It should have padded straps and a padded back, and a waist strap would be a bonus. With older kids, check the weight of the bag once it is packed. The bag should not weigh more than 10% of their body weight — for example, a 60 lb. child can carry a 5 lb. bag, but no one should carry more than 25 lbs. If the bag ends up heavier than it should be, check the contents of the bag, get rid of unnecessary items and consider getting a rolling bag.
2. Pre-sports physical: Pre-sports physicals are very important before the start of the sports season. This is the chance to identify any heart or lung abnormalities that could worsen with activity, as well as any injuries or weaknesses. If there are any injuries, your child may need physical therapy. If there are weaknesses, special exercises to strengthen those muscles will help to prevent injuries as well as improve performance.
3. Lingering pain: If your child complains of pain that doesn’t go away, don’t ignore it. This could represent overuse injury, commonly found in the joints or back. If these symptoms are not taken care of in a timely manner, they may lead to further damage of the joints or back.
4. Scoliosis screening: If your child’s school does not offer scoliosis screening, make sure your pediatrician takes a look at your child’s back. Scoliosis usually occurs during the growth spurt (girls age 8 to 13 years and boys 10 to 15 years) and is more common in girls.
5. Safety: As kids go back to playing with friends, this is a good time to reinforce the use of helmets and other protective equipment. Children grow rapidly–they can outgrow helmets and knee pads just like they outgrow their shoes, so ensure everything fits well. Make it a habit for them to always wear helmets when riding bicycles, scooters and rollerblades.
Dr. H. Susan Cha is a primary care pediatrician at Hospital for Special Surgery.