pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Power Lawn Mower Injuries in Children

[This article on power mower injuries in children was originally published in the spring]

I’ve had some information from the American Academy of Pediatric meeting in Chicago about a favorite past-time of summer which I have been saving until this spring to pass on.

There was a very detailed and graphic discussion of power lawn mower injuries and their effects on children.

Power mower injuries happen to over 50,000 persons each year.

Physicians have a special term for this type of injury which sets it apart from the average accidental injury, and that is: high velocity.

In such type of injuries, more than just the immediate skin is lacerated or abraded.  The velocity imparts destructive damage to the surrounding tissue, which then devitalizes it – or in other words, breaks down its structure and cuts off its own blood supply.

The wound then, at least has a much more difficult time healing; and, at worst must be widely amputated.

Boy walking for the first time in nearly a year following multiple surgeries due to a lawn mower injury.Boy walking again after mower injuryChildren are particularly susceptible to power mower injuries, mainly due to lack of proper safety precautions.

Examples include a two-year old girl who was pulled into the blades when her dress caught in them; a four-year old girl who fell in front of a riding mower while wrestling with a sibling; an eighteen-month old boy riding a mower with his father who fell off and died of massive head injuries; a child sitting on a porch who was killed by a bolt thrown from a power mower.

Or, (this boy) a ten year old who tried to jump on a mower and instead got his foot under the deck and in the blades requiring years of surgeries and casting until he just now could stand on it. Or, the teen using an edger who was blinded by a small metal toy thrown at him by the lawnmower being used by his father.

Or the… really… must I go on?

The consumer products safety commission (CPSC) has compiled a report which includes some frightening figures:

  1. Riding mowers account for approximately 150 deaths annually.
  2. Children younger than 15 are victims in 23 percent of the deaths.
  3. Fourteen percent of all power mowing injuries occur in children younger than 15.
  4. Risk of death in children younger than five years is estimated to be 11 times that of the mower operator.

The average length of hospitalization was 22 days, not counting the repeat hospitalizations for follow up surgery on mutilated limbs and tissue.

Facial injury following a lawn mower injury
These unfortunate children not only suffer physical problems but emotional and social problems related to these types of injuries.

Other types of injuries include being run over by a riding mower; rocks, grass, or other objects being flung by the mower striking the child; burns from gasoline that has ignited while the tank is filled; and burns from touching hot metal blades or other hot mower parts.

A public information pamphlet prepared by the American Academy of Pediatrics includes the following five guidelines for parents who use power lawn mowers:

Lawnmower injuries - small child on lawn behind power lawn mower

  • Infants and toddlers should not even be allowed in the area where a power mower is being used, but should remain well inside the house.
  • Children need to be a minimum of 12 years old to operate any lawn mower, 14 to operate power lawn mowers and 16 to use a ride-on mower.
  • Do not take children for a ride on a power mower.
  • Upon completion of mowing, place the mower out of reach of small children who might accidentally touch hot metal parts.
  • Teach school-age children about the danger of injury associated with power mowers; specifically, they should be told to keep hands away from he blades, wear sturdy non-slip shoes while mowing and avoid mowing on steep inclines where tip-over injuries are common.
  • Of course, debris, stones and toys on the lawn should be picked up before mowing to prevent injuries from flying objects.
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