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Backpack Safety Tips

Backpack Safety Tips
Dr. Katie Poole, PT, DPT

Did you know that how you wear and pack your backpack can have an impact on your health? According to the American Physical Therapy Association, backpacks should weigh no more than 10-15% of your body weight. So for example, if you weigh 100 pounds, your backpack should not weigh more than 10-15 pounds. Unfortunately, many of you carry backpacks much heavier than this, causing your body to have to adapt to the heavy load. You do this by arching your back, leaning forward, or leaning to the side if only one strap is used. These changes in posture can cause strain and fatigue in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, back, and abdominals, leading to possible neck, back, and shoulder pain, headaches, and tingling in the arms.

Now that you are a few months into the school year and I’m sure your backpack is getting heavier as you get more projects and homework, here are some tips for wearing your backpack correctly:

  • Proper fit. Your shoulder straps should fit comfortably and allow your arms to move freely. The bottom of the backpack should be at your waist, not sagging towards your buttocks, as this puts more pressure on your back and shoulders.
  • Use both straps. Wearing both straps helps to distribute the weight of the backpack evenly and promote symmetrical posture. Find a backpack with padded shoulder straps if possible.
  • Wear the waist strap. If your backpack has a waist strap, wear it to help distribute the load of the backpack to your pelvis.
  • Both the shoulder straps and the part of the backpack against your back should be padded.
  • Lighten the load. Take frequent trips to your locker, only carry necessary items home, and carry books in your arms if necessary.
  • Balance the load. Especially if your backpack has multiple compartments, put the heaviest items (textbooks, laptop, etc.) closest to your body.

In addition to making sure that your backpack fits and is not too heavy, it is also important to watch your posture while carrying and lifting your backpack. When picking up your backpack, your back should be straight and neutral, not rounded, and you should lift with your legs, using good squatting mechanics. If your backpack is hard to lift, it is probably too heavy.

If you have any questions about your specific backpack, how heavy it is, and your posture, call your Physical Therapist and they can help you adjust your backpack, improve your posture, and increase your strength so you stay pain free.

Jumper’s Knee for the Basketball or Volleyball Athlete

Jumper’s Knee for the Basketball or Volleyball Athlete
Written by : Dr. Paul Mackarey

As an athlete in many sports you are asked to run, cut, and jump. You ask your body to go through many different movements and forces day in and day out. We all have aches and pains, but some pains are better to be aware of than others.

Are you a jumping athlete?

Do you play basketball or volleyball?

Have you ever had pain just below your kneecap?

If you answered yes to any of these questions than this post is just for you!

Pain, ache, tenderness and/or soreness in the tendon just below the kneecap is a very common injury called patellar tendonitis or jumpers knee. Usually the pain seems to appear one day out of nowhere, this is known as insidious onset.

There are 4 stages of patellar tendonitis.  The first stage is associated with pain only after activity. It does not limit anything else that you do. The second involves pain during and after activity, however, you can still perform without limitation. The third stage is accompanied with lasting pain during and after activity and your performance starts to suffer. The fourth and final stage results in a complete tear of the tendon, which would require surgery. But don’t worry! If you are reading this, you will know what to do to help this long before you need surgery!

This type of injury is called jumpers knee because it is commonly associated with athletes who play sports that often involve jumping, like basketball or volleyball. If you play these sports, it is not uncommon to have some pain in the knees and if you start having pain at that spot below the knee, don’t worry! It is a very common injury and it can be treated with some easy exercises that you will learn today.

Patellar tendonitis has been shown to be associated with stiff ankle joints or ankle sprains (a very common injury that all basketball and volleyball players know too well). It is important not only to keep the knee strong but also the ankle strong as well. Another joint to consider is the hip and it’s strength. Your hip abductors (or the muscles along the outside of the hips) can help control and stabilize your knee when you are jumping and cause less pain.

Here are some exercises to consider:Decline Pistol Squats

Decline Pistols:

  • Stand on 20 degree slant board (or dumbbell)
  • Squat down (very slowly) with one leg, keeping knee over toe.
  • Go back up with 2 legs
  • It is OK to have 1-2/10 pain with this exerciseHeel Taps
  • Perform 2 sets of 15-20 reps.

Lateral Heel Taps:

  • Stand on step. Lower leg slowly until you tap your heel.
  • Remember to sit back and keep the knee over the toe.
  • Perform 2 sets for 10-15 reps.

Skater Squats:Skater Squats

  • Decline on one leg, bringing the backward until it taps the block.
  • Keep the knee over the toe.
  • Lunge back up with same leg.
  • Perform 2 sets for 10-15 reps.

Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies for Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

One out of every 1,750 individuals between the ages of 15- 45 will suffer an ACL injury. While the total number of ACL injuries seen is greater for males, females are up to eight times more likely to sustain an ACL injury when compared to their male counterparts. So, what are some risk factors and what can be done to prevent an injury?
Currently there are several different avenues being researched to find direct links to ACL injuries. The primary risk factors that have been identified are as follows:
  1. Influence of shoe to surface interaction- There has been some problems with keeping consistent variables within this portion of research; however, there does seem to be one primary indicator. The greater the friction between the shoe surface and the ground, the greater the risk. While that information is easy to digest, it’s counterproductive to what an athlete wants/needs for optimal performance.
  2. Anatomical Risk Factors- The male and female lower extremities are built quite differently. The most commonly attributed differences to ACL injuries include increased femoral anteversion, increased Q angle, excessive tibial torsion, and excessive foot pronation. While one or all of these could be contributing factors, there has not been sufficient research to determine the functional movement effects of these differences. Joint laxity and muscular development are also commonly noted possibilities. All of the above are possible considerations; however, none of these factors have been directly correlated to in an increased risk of injury.
  3. Hormonal Risk Factors- There have been several recent research articles that have determined that female sex hormones can influence the composition and mechanical properties of the ACL. A couple of articles have analyzed the specifics of an individual’s menstrual cycle and its effects on injury risk, but there is not enough evidence to be conclusive due to conflicting results. More research is needed prior to making any conclusions specifically about ACL injury risk factors or prevention methods.
  4. Biomechanical Risk Factors- Neuromuscular and proprioceptive control are highly accepted as major factors in an individual’s risk of injury. These control both the conscious and unconscious motor units that are acting during movement and are needed for joint stability. The two primary locations of focus involve the knee as well as the hip-trunk in regards to being risk factors.
  5. Other Notable Risk Factors- From watching video and individual reports, these other risk factors include; deceleration, cutting, and poor movement quality.

Studies have shown that simply wearing a knee brace isn’t the solution, neuromuscular prevention programs are the best solution we have currently available. Ample research is consistently coming out pointing toward neuromuscular prevention programs as significantly decreasing the injury risk for individuals. A two year study of a Division I women’s basketball program saw a decrease of 89%. The techniques used in these programs are not complicated. They most often include learning proper mechanics for landing , cutting, and deceleration through drills and exercises. Kinetic offers multiple programs that offer help with injury prevention, don’t hesitate to ask about how we can help keep you, your child, or your team with a neuromuscular prevention program!

How Does Sleep Affect Your Performance on the Field?

We all know that exercising, eating right, and staying hydrated are important components of a healthy lifestyle; however, many forget about other important factors. With the increasing demands of school, students are staying up later and sleeping less. Sleep is an incredibly important component to a healthy lifestyle, but the majority of athletes are not getting the sleep they need. The National Sleep Foundation has developed new sleep times for children, teenagers, and adults with recommendations for 6-13 year olds sleeping 9-11 hours a night, 14-17 year olds sleeping 8-10 hours, and 18-25 year olds sleeping 7-9 hours. With only 15% of teenagers getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, we are seeing many athletes and students functioning at below optimal levels.

Inadequate sleep has detrimental effects on the body, such as: elevating blood pressure, decreasing function of the immune system, reducing memory and cognition, and increasing risk for injuries. How does this affect an athlete though? Reduced sleep also has been shown to reduce production of key nutrients needed for energy, reduces accuracy and quick decision making, increases stress, decreases focus, and limits an athlete’s ability to recover after a hard work-out or game. Getting sufficient rest could make the difference between scoring the winning goal or losing a championship game. Sleep should be a priority for all athletes and students and is something that can easily be achieved by making a few quick adjustments. Avoiding use of laptops and cell phones right before bed, stopping homework and stressful activities an hour before resting, decreasing use of caffeinated beverages/foods in the evening, and not eating within 3 hours of going to bed are easy ways to improve sleep and overall health.

Information can be found on the The National Sleep Foundation website

Are You Wearing the Right Sneakers?

Proper-fitting sports shoes can enhance performance and prevent injuries. Many problems in the feet can respond to stretching and conditioning, choosing a different shoe, and simple over-the-counter shoe modifications. Right off the bat let me say that Nike does not make the best shoe on the market. Nike has the best marketing team in the business, no one can argue that. If you want to know how to brand and market a business, look at Nike. But please don’t look at them for footwear. Now some people swear that Nike makes the best shoes and I am not going to argue with them. If you run in them and you have no pain and they feel comfortable, then by all means continue. However, bio-mechanically they are generally not the best for your feet. Your feet are essentially designed to do 2 things: absorb shock and act as a lift so they can push your body off the ground. In a nutshell, this is what sneakers are designed to do too.

In the beginning I stated that Nike’s were generally bad, only in the fact that most of their shoes were designed to look good and they all act as shock absorbers so when you put them on for the 2 minutes in the store they feel great. Unfortunately they just don’t feel so great after an intense workout. If you can twist or fold your shoes in half, your foot is not getting proper support and may lead to foot problems down the road. Some of the best shoes are Brooks, New Balance, Saucony and Asics. All of these brands have very good shock absorbing and stability shoes.


How can you tell what shoe is right for you? The 3 F’s of shoe selection can help you.

  • Function
  • Shoes should bend near the ball of the foot and not near the center. Also, a good shoe will not twist excessively in the center of the shoe.
  • Fit
  • Proper lacing should allow the upper to fit snuggly around foot to platform.
  • Feel
  • Shoes should be comfortable, stable, and supportive while walking and running.


***Check out the American College of Sports Medicine website for more information on finding the right athletic shoe for you!



The importance of hydration for good health and properly functioning body systems cannot be overstated. As the warmer months approach and outdoor activities increase, special attention needs to be given to proper hydration and to the prevention of health illnesses. To prevent dehydration in young athletes, it is importance to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after a workout. An athlete’s performance can be impacted by even mild dehydration. An athlete can be at risk if they do not get enough fluids to replace what is lost through the skin as sweat and through the lungs while breathing. The majority of youth athletes are dehydrated before they start playing sports. Dehydration in athletes may also lead to fatigue, poor performance, decreased coordination, and muscle cramping.


So, how much water should young athletes drink? It depends! Water intake is based on several variables, and will vary according to the needs of the individual athlete. General considerations of hydration might be based on the length of the activity, environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, the length and intensity of the practice or game, and the gear the athlete may be wearing, such as football or hockey gear. Proper hydration is helpful for achieving the best performance in athletes. Adequate fluid intake is also helpful for recreational exercisers to exercise at their best. The American College of Sports Medicine provides guidelines for athletes regarding proper hydration and fluid replacements. Check out ACSM website for more information on hydration guidelines…





Water should be readily available and consumed before, during and after a practice or game.

Sports drinks are good for activities lasting longer than 90 minutes to replace sugar and salt as well as water.

Don’t like the taste of water? Try mixing fresh fruit or lemon wedges to naturally flavor your water.