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Students help peers with backpack safety awareness

Sept. 15, 2007

KALAMAZOO--It can be, well, a real pain in the back.

Knowing how many problems an overstuffed backpack can cause, occupational therapy students at Western Michigan University will educate their peers about healthy backpack use during a special event Wednesday, Sept. 19, as part of the American Occupational Therapy Association's National Backpack Awareness Day.

"Pack it light and carry it tight" will be the motto for the day. O.T. students will be on hand across campus to tell their peers about healthy behavior for toting books, laptops and other items. Student teams will be at stations from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Haworth College of Business, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Health and Human Services and will distribute handouts and consult with fellow students about the proper weight and distribution of their backpacks and carrying devices.

According to studies both in the United States and internationally, students who carry overloaded backpacks or wear them improperly are likely to experience neck, shoulder and back pain; adverse effects on posture; and compromised breathing and fatigue. The U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission estimates that more than 7,000 emergency room visits in 2001 resulted from injuries related to backpacks and book bags. The growing awareness of potential long-term problems to students has resulted in increased medical research and proposed legislation in at least two states to address backpack weight in relation to student health.

It is recommended that backpacks weigh no more than 15 percent of your body weight, with the heaviest items loaded closest to your back. People should wear both straps for an evenly balanced load and adjust the shoulder and waist straps to distribute the burden evenly.

For more information, call Dr. Debra Lindstrom Hazel, WMU associate professor of occupational therapy, at (269) 387-7239.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400