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Lawn mower safety urged by Children’s Hospital experts

Apr. 29, 2008, 10:34 AM

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Lawn mower-related injuries are among the most horrific injuries seen at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. They are devastating to families, and doctors say they see them each spring.

These injuries send about 9,000 children and adolescents to hospital emergency departments across the nation each year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one-fourth of those injuries occur in children younger than 5.

Beth Broering, M.S.N., R.N., the trauma program manager at Children’s Hospital, says lawn mower injuries can be horrifying. “The most common injuries we see from lawn mowers are amputations and partial amputations of feet and lower extremities,” she said. “We also see a lot of very serious lacerations (cuts) and injuries to the muscles and tendons. This is dangerous because, even if the bone is not broken from the blades or being run over, the muscles and tendons can be severely damaged, and a child can end up having limited ability to move the foot or leg.”

Broering said families are devastated not just because of the nature of the injury, but also because they are acutely aware, in retrospect, that lawn mower-related injuries can be prevented. Parents should never allow their child to ride as a passenger on a riding mower while it is in use.

“This is one of the common causes of children getting injured,” she said. “The child may start to fall off or move on the mower, and the parent tries to get control of the child but, as a result, loses control of the mower.”

She also said that children should not be allowed to play on the lawn mower. “You never know when they will push the button or pull the lever to engage the blades,” she said.

Children can develop a level of comfort around a lawn mower that leads to accidents. For example, if young children are unafraid to approach a mower, they can run right up to the person mowing. Many children are backed over when the operator of the mower doesn’t realize the child is nearby.

The AAP suggests that “the minimum age for operation of lawn mowers by children is at least 16 years for ride-on mowers and at least 12 years for walk-behind power mowers and hand mowers.” Children who are old enough should be properly taught how to operate the mower and how to take safety precautions.

The Injury Prevention Program, TIPP, of the AAP, gives additional safety recommendations:

·Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.

·Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.

·Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.

·Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area you plan to mow.

·Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.

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