Lawn Mower Injuries on the Rise

Older people and children at greatest risk, study finds

Steven Reinberg

Steven Reinberg

Updated on April 19, 2006

WEDNESDAY, April 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 80,000 Americans require hospital treatment for injuries caused by power lawn mowers each year, a new study reports.

The study also found that injuries from lawn mowers are increasing, with most occurring to children under 19 and adults over 60. Children 15 to 19 have the highest rate of hospitalization, the report found.

The most common injuries are caused by rocks and branches thrown by a mower's blades, striking the body or eyes. Fractures of the foot are the most frequent injuries -- 34 percent -- followed by toe amputations -- 32 percent.

And children are more likely than adults to run over their own foot or touch the hot surface of a mower.

"It drives me crazy to see little kids riding on a lawn mower," said lead study author Dr. David Bishai, an associate professor of population and family health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "It's not a go-cart -- it's a lawn mower with big cutting blades on it. Go get the kid a go-cart if you want them to roll around. There is no reason that somebody under 15 should be anywhere near a lawn mower," he added.

The report appears in the April online edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

In their study, Bishai and his student, Vanessa Costilla, collected data on lawn mower injuries culled from the National Hospital Discharge Survey from 1996 to 2003 and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1996 to 2004.

They found that more than 663,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for lawn mower injuries between 1996 and 2004. In 2004, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for lawn mower injuries. The annual rate of lawn mower injuries is about half that of firearms, the researchers reported.

Among older Americans, the most common reason for seeking hospital treatment is for complaints of pain, Bishai said. "They get chest pain or a backache," he said.

Children shouldn't be riding on mowers or sitting on the lawn while it is being mowed, Bishai advised. In addition, he believes injuries can be reduced by taking basic precautions. "There is really an obvious countermeasure that everyone can do, which is to suit up." he said. "Get the goggles on, wear long pants and work boots."

Bishai offers these other safety tips:

  • Clear the yard of debris before mowing.
  • Keep everyone, especially small children, from the yard while mowing.
  • People with histories of chest, back or joint pain should reconsider mowing.
  • Use care and wear protective gloves when servicing a mower or changing blades.
  • Never service the mower while it is running.
  • Mow only in good weather conditions -- avoid mowing in high heat.
  • Do not use a riding mower on steep hills or embankments.
  • Do not carry passengers on riding mowers or tow passengers behind the machine.
  • Store lawn mowers in area with minimal traffic that aren't accessible to children.

One expert thinks that better-designed mowers would also reduce the growing number of injuries.

"Lawn mower injuries require an interaction between person and machine, and research such as this can serve to make adjustments to both," said Dr. David L. Katz, an associate professor of public health and director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University's School of Medicine.

"By understanding the pattern of mower-related injuries, people can be forewarned, and thus forearmed, against likely hazards," Katz said. "Such simple defenses as shatterproof eyewear, steel-toed boots, and long pants would cut down on the common injuries. But an even more reliable approach to injury prevention is through better engineering. Injuries and fatalities from car crashes are declining, not due to our more prudent behavior, but due to safer cars with crumple zones, harness restraints, and airbags."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics can tell you more about lawn mower injuries.

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