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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 23, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 31
With Change of Season, Power Lawn Mower Injuries Crop Up

By Katerina Pesheva
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Spring is here, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and it's time to give that lawn a trim. But beware: Lawn mower injuries are a seasonal threat to children and the leading cause of amputations in adolescents, say specialists from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Maryland's designated pediatric trauma center, where the most severe injuries are treated.

"The No. 1 advice to parents is: Treat the lawn mower as hazardous equipment not a toy," said Carol Gentry, nurse manager of the pediatric operating room. "You don't let a child play with an electric saw, and that's exactly what a lawn mower is."

Each year, research shows, lawn mower accidents send 9,400 children in this county to the hospital, causing injuries more severe than any other tool or device. The most common injuries are lacerations, fractures and amputations of the fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs.

Most injuries occur when an operator is unaware that a child is behind a mower and shifts into reverse, backing over the child.

Of the lawn mower accidents seen among patients at the Children's Center between 2000 and 2005, 95 percent were amputations that required reattachment or reconstructive surgery.

"Every year, we see several children so badly injured by lawn mowers that they need amputation or extensive reconstructive surgery," said Rick Redett, director of reconstructive and plastic surgery at the Children's Center. "Many more children end up in local emergency departments with a variety of mower-related injuries."

Typically, Redett says, pediatricians see the first such injuries in late April, but this year, the first case came in March. He and his colleagues throughout the state and nation are alerting parents and other child caregivers to the dangers and providing tips for preventing such injuries. The tips:

Keep children under 6 years old indoors while a power mower is in operation.

Let no child under 12 use a walk-behind mower.

Keep children under 16 off ride-on mowers, even if with a parent.

If you are mowing and see a child running toward you, turn off the mower immediately. Children can fall and slip into the blade, especially if the grass is wet.

Wear protective goggles and close-toed shoes when operating a mower or when near one.

Before mowing, clean the lawn of debris such as sticks and stones, which may get caught in the blades and be propelled out.

If injury occurs, call 911 right away and apply pressure to the wound to stop bleeding while you await an ambulance.

Buy mowers with a no-reverse safety feature that requires the operator to turn around (and see behind him) in order to shift into reverse.


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