A Leading Cause of Summer Injuries

June 27, 2017

WebMD 2011 (www.WebMD.com) has a list of the 7 most common reasons people end up in the emergency room (ER also known as the ED or emergency department) during the summer months. You can probably guess a few, but others may surprise you. The top seven causes of sending people to the ER are: Mower injuries; boating accidents; dehydration; sunburn; food poisoning; fireworks; and summer stings. You may not think any of these could possibly affect you, but they can. So enjoy the summer, but recognize that a lapse in judgement or a lack of action can send you to the ER as fast as anyone else.  

 Many of the causes listed above are not surprising to you, but others may be. For example, mower injuries as a top cause of ER visits may be surprising. According to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (2015 data) there were 274,000 adults and 12,000 children injured by lawn mowers. Boys sustain 80% of the child injuries, mostly to the hands and face. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) describes mower injuries as cuts, burns, fractures and amputations. You never think it will be you or your child who is injured cutting the lawn. That is what my friend’s parents thought, except Mike hit a rock, flipped over the mower and lost his leg at the age of 13!

 Lawn mowing is a chore often given to children who may take it on with delight, especially if they get to “drive” the mower, sort of a prelude to the real thing. Several professional groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the AAOS advise that a child should be at least 12 before using a push mower and 16 before using a riding mower. (That may surprise many parents!) You have to judge if your child is mature enough and has the ability to make good judgements before assigning the task.  

 Several sources (WebMD, ABC news, AAOS, AAP) have listed safety rules for mowing to avoid injuries. They are compiled here. Review them, especially with your children. A momentary lapse in judgement can certainly spoil your summer fun, if not have life-long effects.

  • Never mow lawns or be around lawn-mowing equipment in bare feet or flip flops. Closed shoes offer the best protection.
  • Check lawn for debris, such as sticks, stones, rocks or trash. These objects can become missiles and land in an eye or cause a serious bodily injury. Eye protection is a good practice for those objects that you can’t see in the grass. 
  • Never try to unclog mower blades while the machine is running. The reason for this is pretty obvious.
  • Keep small children and pets away from active mowing. Indoors may be the safest place. Your vision or hearing may be impaired while mowing and you may not see the child or the pet.
  • Consider eye and ear protection.
  • Mower engines get very hot and can cause burns. Cool down the mower before you refuel it or touch it. Make sure the mower has protection over the hot (and sharp) parts.
  • Never allow passengers on the mower. Riding mowers are designed for one person, the operator, to be on it.
  • Use caution on slopes. This can be tricky and requires experience. Professionals recommend going up and down slopes rather than across slopes.
  • Turn off blades when crossing a pathway that is not grass. Failure to do so can kick up dirt and stones that can cause injuries, especially to the eyes and face.
  • Make sure your mower is in good working condition and that safety guards are properly installed.
  • Never operate lawn mowing equipment (or any equipment) while drinking alcohol.

Mowing the lawn seems like a simple activity. But complacency can lead to a devastating injury. These safety rules are common sense and may be familiar to you. You need to remember to follow them. Injuries can happen to you, not just the other guy.  

 For printed information google “lawn mower safety.” There are many documents on line. District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) who do not have access to the Internet can  call 203 248-4528.