Did you buy the right backpack for your schoolchild?

Did you buy the right backpack for your schoolchild?

''Don't just go for style,'' said Dr. Deane Moore, a chiropractor and co-owner of Moore Family Chiropractic in Hanover. ''Go for something that functionally fits.''

Moore said the wrong backpack or improper use can cause back, neck and headaches, as well as potentially long-term ''structural shifts'' in posture.

The key, Moore said, is selecting a backpack that fits the child's body and features padded shoulder straps and additional support straps - such as waist or sternum straps.

Jerry Flaherty, a salesman at Eastern Mountain Sports in Plymouth who regularly fits kids with backpacks, said the key to buying the proper pack is measuring the child's torso length.

''From the top vertebra - where it meets the neck - to the lowest vertebra just below your waist, measure that distance and try to find a backpack that's tailored for that size,'' Flaherty said.

Moore recommends avoiding larger backpacks unless you expect your child to carry lighter materials, such as gym clothes or a coat.

A fully loaded backpack should not weigh more than 15 percent of the child's body weight, Moore said. For example, the backpack of an 80-pound child should weigh no more than 12 pounds.

''Sometimes smaller is better because the child is forced to find other ways of carrying the stuff about,'' Moore said.

Moore said rolling packs, while seemingly superior because the weight isn't carried on the back, can cause trouble as well.

''The (rolling) pack itself is heavier than a normal backpack and students eventually have to pick it up,'' Moore said.

Flaherty said backpacks typically range in price from about $50 to more than $100. He said while it is possible to find a pack for $25, they generally don't last.

More expensive packs are typically composed of more durable, often waterproof, materials with stronger stitching, Flaherty said. He said they also offer added features such as better-padded straps and more pockets.

Once you've determined the proper size, material and suspension, Flaherty said, you can finally get to the part most kids are looking for in a backpack.

''Color definitely enters into the picture,'' Flaherty said. ''For some people, it's the first thing.''

Packing Tips

Packing your backpack: The weight of a child's fully loaded backpack should not be more than 15 percent of the child's body weight. Items should be placed in the pack in such a way as to balance the weight evenly between the shoulders. If the child is required to carry materials adding up to more than his or her body weight, doctors recommend using lockers or carrying some of the materials by hand.

Lifting your backpack: A backpack should not be slung carelessly over one shoulder but should be lifted carefully to prevent back strain. Packs should be lifted using the legs and always with two hands.

Wearing your backpack: All straps, including both shoulder straps and any additional waist or sternum straps, should be fastened while wearing a backpack. The shoulder straps should fit snugly, preventing the backpack from sagging.

Information courtesy of Backpack Safety America, www.backpacksafe.com.

Patriot Ledger

A.J. Bauer may be reached at ajbauer@ledger.com.