COLUMBIA, Mo. — Mowing the lawn is a ritual that many Americans perform weekly. Although it’s an activity as synonymous with summertime as baseball and barbequing, mowing the lawn can be very dangerous if not handled properly.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 80,000 people are injured in lawn mower-related accidents each year in the United States.
“The kinds of injuries we typically see from lawn mowers include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, broken and dislocated bones, burns and eye injuries,” said Stephen Colbert, M.D., a plastic surgeon at University of Missouri Health Care. “Some injuries are very serious and require the involvement of several different specialists to treat. I would strongly urge the public to be extremely cautious, because both users of mowers and those who are nearby can also be hurt.”
Not only are adults and teens who operate lawn mowers at risk of injury, so are children and other adults who may be struck with flying debris.
“We have treated three patients over the last six weeks who suffered significant lawn mower-related injuries,” said Carol Nierling, R.N., manager of trauma services at University Hospital. “And the number of such injuries usually increases throughout the summer.”
Colbert, who typically treats 10 to 15 patients a year for severe lawn mower-related accidents such as finger amputations, recommends these safety precautions to help reduce the number of injuries:
• Before mowing, pick up stones and other debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
• Always wear sturdy shoes (not sandals or flip flops) while mowing.
• Young children and other adults should stay indoors while mowing is taking place.
• Always wear hearing and eye protection.
• Wait for blades to completely stop before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute or crossing gravel-covered surfaces such as roads or driveways.
“A lawn mower is a very common household tool,” said Colbert. “But it is important to use caution when operating a piece of machinery that has a sharp-edged blade spinning up to 200 miles per hour. And unfortunately, it only takes a split second for something devastating to occur that could have lifelong implications.”