With summer approaching and the school year coming to a close, thousands of kids across the country will take on a familiar chore -- mowing the lawn.
Whether it's to help their parents mow the backyard or a summer job to earn money, this routine task can be dangerous for children and adults alike if proper safety precautions are not taken.
In fact, more than 230,500 people -- approximately 20,000 of them children under age 19 -- were treated in doctors' offices, clinics and emergency rooms for lawn mower-related injuries in 2004, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports.
To help prevent injures, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) have teamed up to educate parents, adults and children about the importance of lawn mower safety during National Safety Month, June 2006.
"The power lawn mower is one of the most dangerous tools around the home, but many children view it as a potential toy -- resulting in thousands of debilitating injures every year," said ASRM President L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS.
"Lawn mower injuries often include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, limb amputations, broken and dislocated bones, burns, and eye injuries. Most of these injuries can be prevented by following a few simple safety tips," Levin added
The ASRM, ASPS, AAP and AAOS offer the following tips to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:
• Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
• Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
• Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing -- not sandals.
• Young children should be a safe distance from the area you are mowing.
• Before mowing, pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
• Always wear eye and hearing protection.
• Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
• Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary carefully look for others behind you when you do.
• Start and refuel mowers outdoors -- not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
• Blade settings should be made only by an adult .
• Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads.
"Though mowing the lawn can be a great form of physical activity, it can also cause harm if the proper precautions are not taken," explained Richard F. Kyle, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS President. "It's important that people take their time when mowing the lawn, and teach kids at an early age to stay clear of these machines when they are running."
Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations to restore form and function.
"Physicians in plastic surgery, microsurgery, pediatric surgery, and orthopaedics are at the forefront in repairing these injuries and see, firsthand, how devastating they can be for children and their families," said ASPS President Bruce Cunningham, MD. "It is equally important for us to aid in the prevention of these injuries as it is to repair them."
"The sad thing is that so many of these tragic injuries are avoidable," said Eileen M. Ouellette, MD, JD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "A few simple precautions can protect thousands of children."