This time of year when you go out, the sounds of summer are everywhere. Children play, insects buzz and birds chirp, and the buzz of lawn mowers fills the air in my neighborhood.
Lawn mowers are such a part of our lives that sometimes we can forget how dangerous they can be. In 2017, a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that 4,800 children received emergency treatment for lawnmower-related injuries each year.
A recently published study by surgeons in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital showed that despite regulation, the incidence of injury in children has not declined for several decades in the United States.
Risk of serious injury to children working on the lawn
The study looked at the records of 142 children who were treated for lawn mower injuries at Nationwide Children’s between 1994 and 2019, and the injuries that did occur were devastating. More than 68% of patients have suffered an open fracture, that is, a fracture with an open wound, which is often caused by a piece of bone passing through the skin at the time of injury. About 38% of lawn mower injuries were so severe they required amputation.
And while we can expect injuries to occur mostly in very young children, the average age was 7.5 years.
The study, which was published in the journal JPRAS Open, also identified the three most common ways to injure children with lawn mowers:
• Being struck by a riding mower moving forward;
• Fall of a riding mower;
• Being struck by a backing riding mower.
Push mowers were also implicated in children’s injuries, but lawn mower-related injuries were associated with a higher likelihood of surgery, longer hospital stays, and a greater need for reconstructive surgeries.
Beyond the risk of direct injury from being hit by a lawn mower, children are also at risk of being hit by projectiles thrown under the lawn mower.
The good news is that lawn mower injuries can often be prevented. Experts at Nationwide Children’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and their counterparts across the country have several recommendations for keeping children safe while keeping your yard in good shape.
First of all, make the yard you mow an area without children. Children should never be allowed to ride on a riding mower. They shouldn’t even be outside with you when you use a mower – riding or pushing.
Avoid mowing in reverse. If you have to, be sure to look behind yourself before doing so.
And while you might want your kid to start helping with the gardening work (I know I am), experts say kids should be at least 12 years old to use a push mower and 16 years old before they can use a push mower. ” use a lawn mower. Adult education and supervision are important factors in ensuring the safety of older children as they learn to help mow the lawn.
A better job for kids is to help pick up sticks, rocks, toys, and other yard debris before taking out the lawn mower. Picking up the yard will reduce the chance that you can hit yourself or a passerby with a projectile thrown by the mower.
As we approach the end of the summer season, I hope it has been safe and healthy. Let’s keep it that way, protect our children when it’s time to mow the garden.
Abbie Roth is Editor-in-Chief of Nationwide Pediatrics and Science Communication at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.