About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 24, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 31
Lawn Mowing Injuries Up Nationwide, Hazards for Kids and Adults

By Tim Parsons
Bloomberg School of Public Health

Each year nearly 80,000 Americans require hospital treatment from injuries caused by lawn mowers, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

And that number is increasing, they say, with the majority of injuries occurring in children under age 15 and in adults 60 and older. The most common cause of injuries was strikes from debris, such as rocks and branches, propelled by the mower's spinning blades.

The study, published in the April online edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, is the first to examine the extent and mechanisms of lawn mower injuries nationwide.

"There is no reason anyone under 12 should ever be injured by a lawn mower," said David Bishai, senior author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Population and Family Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. "If we would keep the kids off the lawn when mowing and off the riding mowers, we could greatly reduce the number of injuries each year." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no one under age 16 should use a riding mower and that no one under age 12 should use a push mower.

Bishai and co-author Vanessa Costilla, a student with the school's Diversity Summer Internship Program, analyzed data of mower-related injuries requiring hospitalization from the National Hospital Discharge Survey from 1996 to 2003 and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1996 to 2004.

According to the results, more than 663,000 people were treated in emergency rooms in the United States for lawn mower injuries between 1996 and 2004. More than 80,000 people required hospital treatment for lawn mower injuries in 2004, a number that translates to about two out of every 1,000 injury-related emergency room visits. The rate is about half the number treated for firearms injuries annually. In addition to strikes from flying projectiles, the most common causes of injury for people over age 15 were nonspecific pain after mowing and injuries occurring while servicing the mower. The most common injury requiring hospitalization was a foot fracture.

Based on the study results, Bishai recommends the following safety tips:

Wear goggles, long pants and close-toed shoes with gripped soles.

Clear the yard of debris before mowing.

Keep everyone, especially small children, from the yard while mowing.

If you have a history of chest, back or joint pain, reconsider mowing.

Wear protective gloves and use care when servicing mower or changing blades.

Get help, if needed, to lift the mower.

Never service the mower while it is running.

Mow only in good weather conditions, and avoid mowing in high heat.

Do not use riding mowers on steep hills or embankments.

Do not carry passengers on riding mowers or tow passengers behind the mower.

Do not allow children under the age of 16 to operate a riding mower.

Store lawn mowers in area with minimal traffic and not accessible to children.

"These are machines with sharp blades spinning at 160 miles per hour just inches away from our feet and hands. Everyone needs to respect the dangers and use common sense," Bishai said.

Funding for the study was provided by the Student Diversity Office at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and grants from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |