CHICAGO - As the school year draws to a close, thousands of children across the country will take on a familiar chore: mowing the lawn. June is National Safety Month, and three national medical organizations are warning families that the routine task of lawn mowing can be extremely dangerous to children, the operator, and those nearby if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.
Sadly, 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010 -- nearly 17,000 of them children under age 19, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Lawn mower-related injuries are up 3 percent since 2009.
“Lawn mowers are not meant to be toys and are certainly not to be used for joy rides,” said American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM) President Michael Neumeister, MD. “Most lawn mower injuries occur when the operator is distracted momentarily and injuries can range from finger tips to entire hands and feet.”
With the summer mowing season approaching, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are joining ASRM in educating adults and children about the importance of lawn mower safety.
“Every year at this time, in far too many neighborhoods, children are operating or playing around lawn mowers in unsafe ways. And every summer, thousands get hurt," said AAP President Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP. "We want parents and kids to be more aware of precautions to take so that injuries can be prevented."
“The dangers of using a lawn mower should not be taken lightly,” said AAOS President John R. Tongue, MD. “There are still too many careless injuries that happen to children because of these powerful machines. Parents should take the time to discuss lawn mower safety precautions with their kids as most of these injuries can be prevented.”
Lawn mower injury prevention tips include:
• Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
• Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
• Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
• Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower or is in the vicinity wear polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.
• Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
• Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
• Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawn mowers.
• Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers and keep children out of the yard while mowing.
• Drive up and down slopes, not across to prevent mower rollover.
• Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.
Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months, sometimes years, to restore form and function. Some of these procedures can be as complex as moving the big toe to the hand to simulate a thumb.
To read more tips on lawn mower safety visit www.orthoinfo.org.
Advice from the Experts
Note: Journalists are encouraged to contact Lawn Mower Injury Prevention partners for in-depth interviews.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery
The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery is an organization of more than 600 surgeons board certified in plastic, orthopaedic or general surgery that perform microsurgery and other complex reconstructive surgeries. The ASRM is dedicated to promoting, encouraging and advancing the art and science of microsurgery and other complex reconstructions through education and research.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
With more than 36,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org) or (www.orthoinfo.org) is the premier not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals, champions the interests of patients and advances the highest quality musculoskeletal health.