It is the summer. Children are out of school and many of us are using the “down time” to teach our kids responsibility. It is common for many families to teach their older children to mow the lawn as one form of responsibility. But a new study found that more than 9,000 kids are injured in the U.S. every year while mowing the lawn. The study was conducted at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and used statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) to identify patients age 20 and younger treated for mowing-related injuries between 2004 and 2013. The researchers collected information from approximately 100 emergency departments to generate the national assessments. The data was compared with an earlier review of pediatric mowing-related injuries from 1990 to 2004. Surprisingly, the number of children who get hurt annually hasn’t changed in more than two decades. Sadly, the numbers have stayed the same, not gone down.
More than a third of the injured children in the latest study were under 12 years of age, and there was a spike in injuries recorded at ages 3 and 16. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be at least 12 years old before operating any mower and at least 16 to operate a riding or tractor-style mower.
What are the most common injuries? Cuts, burns, fractures, amputations and projectile injuries caused by flying objects thrown up by the mower. Most injuries affected hands and fingers, followed by toes, feet, face and eyes. Many injuries were disfiguring and would become even more so as children continued to grow, the study found.
What were the result of the injuries? Approximately 7% of injured children were admitted to hospital, where 31% underwent amputations. More than a fifth of the injuries occurred on ride-on mowers.
Sadly, it isn’t only children who get injured by lawn mowers and the injuries are severe. There are several common types of lawn mower injuries: bystanders who fall, slide or trip into the path of a mower; older children who are operating the lawn mower and get their fingers or toes cut off by the blades; those who have roll-over injuries; and passengers of any age who slip or fall from a riding mower into the path of the blades. Additionally, a mower can throw an object up to 2,100 feet at 200 mph and cause severe injuries or even death.
Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital offers the following tips to help reduce the risk of a lawn mower injury to people of all ages:
- Read the lawn mower operator’s manual.
- Children should not ride on lawn mowers as passengers. They can fall and be caught under the mower.
- Clear the mowing area of objects including twigs, stones and toys that can be picked up and thrown by the lawn mower blades.
- Wear close-toed shoes with slip-proof soles while mowing.
- Consider hearing protection for louder mowers.
- Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is let go.
- Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you do.
- Make sure that all children are indoors or at a safe distance away from the area that you are mowing before you turn on the mower.
- If your child is going to operate the lawn mower, make sure he or she is old enough to handle the responsibilities that are associated with using one. Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to operate riding mowers and those younger than 12 should not be allowed to use push mowers.
- Before you allow your child to mow the lawn alone, spend time showing him or her how to do the job safely. Supervise your child’s work until you are sure that he or she can manage the task alone.
- Store the fuel for the mower out of reach of children. Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or a shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool. Never let children refuel the engine.
An estimated 93,508 lawn-mower injuries were recorded during the latest study, or an average of about 9,351 a year. That compares with 9,400 injuries a year reported in the earlier review. About 80% of injuries occurred in boys.
Published in the American Journal of Surgery