When Lawn Mowers Attack
National Medical Societies Offer Tips to Prevent Injuries; Children Often Victims
CHICAGO - Using a lawn mower can be as routine as bike riding or barbeques during spring and summer months. But often, people find themselves in terrifying situations with these seemingly safe household machines. In fact, 200,000 people - 16,000 of them children - are injured in lawn mower-related accidents each year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. However, lawn mowers don't "attack" on their own. Most injuries - such as severed fingers and toes, limb amputations, broken bones, burns and eye injuries - are caused by careless use and can be prevented by following a few simple safety tips.
The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) have teamed up to prevent injuries and educate adults, parents, and children about the importance of lawn mower safety during National Safety Month, June 2009.
"In 19 years of practice as a plastic surgeon and microsurgeon, some of the most devastating and disabling injuries I've treated are from lawn mower accidents," said ASRM President William Zamboni, MD. "It's especially concerning when children are injured since most of these injuries are preventable."
Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties - plastic surgery, microsurgery, maxillofacial surgery, pediatrics, and orthopaedics - to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months, sometimes years, to restore form and function.
"Power lawn mowers are dangerous adult tools, but many children, and sometimes adults unfortunately, see them as toys," said ASPS President John Canady, MD. "Lawn mowing can be dangerous to the operator as well as those nearby if proper safety precautions aren't taken. Physicians of this coalition often repair these heart wrenching injuries, and we feel it's our duty to help people avoid these accidents in the first place."
The ASRM, ASPS, ASMS, AAP and AAOS offer the following tips to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:
- Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
- Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
- Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing - not sandals.
- Young children should be at a safe distance from the area you are mowing.
- Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
- Always wear eye and hearing protection.
- Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
- Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary - carefully look for others behind you when you do.
- Start and refuel mowers outdoors - not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
- Blade settings should be set by an adult only.
- Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads. (As a safety feature, some newer models have a blade/brake clutch that stops the blade each time the operator releases the handle.)
"We are pleased to be part of this lawn mower injury prevention coalition," said ASMS President Kevin Kelly, MD. "Maxillofacial plastic surgeons treat numerous facial injuries caused by lawn mowers, particularly to children, and the effects can be devastating. Very often, we see patients who suffer significant facial injuries by items thrown out of mowers like sticks and stones."
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 11,000 physician members worldwide, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 92 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.