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.
Most importantly, practice safe mowing this spring.
Dr. Steven Lawrence is an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon for UK HealthCare Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.