Protect your kid’s back…Don’t overpack!

By: Sarah DoBroka Cooley PT, SCS, COMT, Cert DN

At the beginning of every season, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden would begin with, “Men, this is how you put your shoes and socks on.” Even returning players were forced to sit through the speech and relearn the concept year after year. Wooden’s point…small things matter; A wrinkle in your sock could cause a blister and keep you from practicing at your best.

School season is about to begin, which means new backpacks to purchase. If you are a parent of a rising kindergartner, welcome to the team! If this will be your 5th, 10th, or 15th backpack purchase, welcome back and enjoy the review. Protecting the back of your high school kid is just as important as protecting the back of your elementary school kid.

Here are some tips for proper backpack fitting and packing:

  1. A backpack should be no wider or longer than a child’s torso and should never hang lower than 4 inches below the waist.
  2. A child should carry no more than 10% of their bodyweight in the backpack. Heavier items should be placed in the center.
  3. Children should use both straps to evenly distribute the weight. Straps should be wide and padded to avoid interference with circulation.
  4. Tighten straps so the backpack fits close to the body. A chest or waist strap can also help evenly distribute weight.
  5. Pick a backpack with multiple compartments to help with load distribution.
  6. Choose a fun color or design

Considering these tips as you purchase a new backpack will help reduce overload of your kid’s developing spine.  If you have further questions regarding the fitting or packing of your child’s backpack, or if your child is experiencing any pain as a result of wearing a backpack, contact me at

Sarah DoBroka Cooley PT, SCS, COMT, Cert DN has greater than 17 years of clinical experience and highly respected credentials including being a Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist, a Certified Manual Therapist, and certifications in dry needling and instrument assisted manual therapy. She specializes in treating orthopedic injuries in athletes who compete on interscholastic, collegiate, Olympic, and professional levels. Locally, she has served as a PT consultant to Davidson College and was a member of the Motorsports Outreach Team for NASCAR. Contact her at

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