Kids & Lawnmowers: Preventing Severe Injuries
Spring is finally here, which means it's mowing season again. Before you start to mow, remember lawnmowers can be extremely dangerous, especially for children. Each year, more than 17,000 children are treated for lawnmower injuries, which results in 4,000 trips to the emergency room, many amputations and 75 deaths.
“We want the community to know lawnmower injuries are 100 percent preventable,” said Dr. Dale Jarka, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at Children’s Mercy.
Dr. Jarka and Dr. Richard Schwend, Director of Orthopaedic Research, have both seen their share of injuries. In the past 20 years, more than 157 patients have been treated at Children’s Mercy for a lawnmower injury.
To determine if some children are more prone to injury than others, Dr. Jarka and Dr. Schwend examined the causes, patterns and effects of lawnmower injuries between 1995 and 2015.
“This information helped us identify predictors of severe injuries, and the age-related data from this analysis were the most revealing,” said Dr. Schwend. “Though you might expect teenagers operating a mower to suffer lawnmower injuries, we actually saw the highest number of injuries in four-year-olds.”
Dr. Jarka added. “These are often the children who are bystanders in the yard or they’re passengers on the riding lawnmower. I know lawnmowers may seem like fun, they look pretty cool and they love riding on it with parents and grandparents, but unfortunately, they can fall off and get severely injured, and sometimes injuries can be deadly.”
“The loss of life or limb will affect a young child and the responsible parent or grandparent for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Schwend.
The other age group at highest risk is 15 and 16 year olds. These teenagers are typically operating the mower.
“That’s where you have the inexperienced mower – the person who says ‘I want to get a summer job, I want to be mowing the lawn and earn some money,’ and they don’t know how to do it safely,” said Dr. Jarka.
The research also found that 75 percent of children injured were male. Lower extremity injuries were most prevalent, which affected 84 percent of patients. Forty percent underwent at least one amputation, most commonly in the front part of the foot.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended age to start using a push motorized lawnmower is 12 years old. The recommend age for operating a riding lawnmower is 16 years of age. Most important, there should never be a passenger on a riding lawnmower, NEVER!
Both Dr. Schwend and Dr. Jarka hope the research highlights the need for public education.
“Children’s Mercy is in a unique position. Our experience can serve as the foundation for what could one day become a nationwide registry on lawnmower injuries,” said Dr. Schwend. “This type of information could help us better target our message of prevention to the right geographic areas and population groups.”
Learn more about lawnmower safety tips.
Learn more about the Pediatric Orthopedics at Children’s Mercy.