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Choosing the right backpack. Look for the following:

(1) Wide, padded shoulder straps - Narrow straps can dig into shoulders. This can cause pain and restrict circulation.

(2) Padded back - A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.

To prevent injury when using a backpack, do the following:

(1) Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student's body weight.

(2) Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may increase curvature of the spine.

(3) Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

(4) Use a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried upstairs.

Ways to Make Backpacks Safer (and more comfortable!)