Tips: Preventing Lawnmower Injuries

With spring around the corner, it will soon be time to trim the lawn, but spring also marks the onset of what Johns Hopkins Children’s Center specialists call lawnmower injury season. Lawnmowers can cause devastating injuries in children and are the leading cause of amputations in teens, Hopkins Children’s experts warn.

“Every spring and summer we see children so badly injured by lawnmowers that they need amputation or extensive reconstructive surgery,” said Rick Redett, M.D., director of reconstructive and plastic surgery at Hopkins Children’s, Maryland’s designated pediatric trauma center where the most severe cases are treated.

Many more children with less serious injuries end up in local emergency departments, Redett said.

Each year, lawnmower accidents send 9,400 U.S. children to the hospital, causing injuries more severe than any other tool or device, research shows. The most common injuries are lacerations, fractures and amputations of the fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs.

Most injuries occur when a person operating a ride-on mower is unaware that a child is behind the mower and shifts into reverse, backing over the child.

Of the lawnmower accidents seen among patients at Hopkins Children’s between 2000 and 2006, 95 percent led to amputations and required reconstructive surgery.

Hopkins Children’s experts offer the following prevention tips:

  • Keep children under 6 years old indoors while a power mower is in operation.
  • Don’t allow a child under 12 to use a walk-behind mower.
  • Keep children under 16 off ride-on mowers, even with a parent.
  • If you are mowing and see a child running toward you, turn off the mower immediately. Children can fall and slip into the blade, especially if the grass is wet.
  • Wear protective goggles and close-toed shoes when operating a mower or when near one.
  • Before mowing, clean the lawn of debris such as sticks and stones, which may get caught in the blades and propelled out.
  • If injury occurs, call 911 right away and apply pressure to the wound to stop bleeding while you await an ambulance.
  • Buy mowers with a no-reverse safety feature that requires the operator to turn the mower around instead of shifting into reverse.
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