If it's Spring, can lawnmower injuries be far behind?

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

April 2012

The price of a neat lawn can be pretty high if a person is injured by a mower. That happens about 10,000 times a year among children below the age of 18. More than 70,000 adults sustain serious mower injuries, with persons over the age of 70 being at highest risk.

As you might expect, amputations are common. About 600 children lose one or more toes or fingers in a single year. The youngest kids have no idea how hot a lawnmower's engine can be and burns constitute more than a third of injuries to the hands.

Some of the most serious injuries are caused by riding mowers. These are not simple amputations; severe damage to abdominal organs and the chest have occurred. Several reported cases have involved children below the age of three years. If we include lawn tractors and garden tractors, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 persons are injured by these machines every year, 75 of them fatally. Adding to the tragedy is that one of every five deaths involves a young child.

Almost all mower injuries are due to carelessness. Always walk the area first to make sure that there is no debris that can become an eye-destroying or face-lacerating missile. Never allow a child to hang around while you're using any type of mower, especially the riding type. Children have sustained horrible injuries when the operator put the mower in reverse, unaware of the little person following behind.

It seems like a no-brainer that mowing barefoot is an invitation to disaster, especially when the grass is wet and the lawn isn't level. Always wear decent close-toed shoes whose soles are not worn down — not tennies. Protective glasses could prevent the several hundred eye injuries that emergency room physicians treat every year.

Since the most serious harm involves riding mowers, no child below the age of 15 years should be allowed to operate them. Some accidents have occurred because an adult has allowed a child to ride behind or in front of him.

If you don't have a huge lawn, consider a push-type reel mower. It costs a fraction of the motorized type to own and operate, there's no need to store gasoline and maintenance requires little more than an occasional squirt of oil. It doesn't pollute and the neighbors will never complain about the noise. And you'll get a good workout!

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.