By Dr. Steven Lawrence
Warm weather brings with it the sounds of lawnmowers buzzing across lawns, and the scent of freshly-cut grass. Mowing is such a common chore, we often approach it casually; unfortunately careless lawnmower operation can lead to devastating injuries.
As a physician, I treat the results of many lawnmower accidents. The wounds we see in our clinic range from simple cuts and burns, to traumatic amputations and life-threatening injuries.
More than 10 million lawnmowers are in operation in the U.S., and nearly 210,000 lawnmower-related injuries occur annually, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). The foot and ankle are the body parts most vulnerable to lawnmower-related injury. Traumatic lawnmower injuries often temporarily or permanently impact an individual’s ability to walk and perform basic tasks.
Patients often have devastating, life-long physical and emotional consequences as a result of these common injuries. All too often, the victims are children. As doctors, we know how to treat complex foot and ankle injuries – but we would rather see people avoid lawnmower accidents in the first place. To help, here are a few simple safety recommendations from AAOS:
• Children younger than 12 should not operate push-style lawnmowers. Nobody younger than 16 should operate a riding mower.
• Never let a second person ride or jump on a mower while it is running.
• Ensure that your push mower stops the blade when the control handle is released. Riding mowers should stop when the rider leaves the seat.
• Always wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Do not mow in sandals or with bare feet.
• Wear long pants to protect legs from projectiles.
• Before mowing, scan the lawn to remove toys, hoses, tools and large rocks – they could become projectiles.
• Keep children out of the area being mowed.
• Don’t mow wet grass – you could slip, finding your feet in the path of the blades.
• Use extra caution on banks and slopes.
• If possible, never pull a mower backwards.
• Stay alert to others entering the mowing area.
• Do not operate a lawnmower under the influence of alcohol.
• Use eyewear and ear protection to avoid injuries to these body parts.
• Never refuel a mower when the engine is hot, to prevent burns.
For more lawnmower safety tips, visit: http://www.aaos.org/about/papers/position/1142.asp.
To learn more about UK physicians and our expertise in foot and ankle injuries, visit: http://ukhealthcare.uky.edu/Ortho/index.asp.
Most importantly, practice safe mowing this spring.
Dr. Steven Lawrence is an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon for UK HealthCare Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.