The Rudie family knows all too well how dangerous lawn mowing can be when proper safety precautions are not taken. In July 2009, Mrs. Brenda Rudie’s two-year-old son Brandon suffered devastating facial injuries in a lawn mower accident. His father was mowing the lawn and Brandon was in a cart behind him with his 5-year-old cousin. Somehow Brandon fell out of the front and his father backed up, accidentally running him over.
“We never thought this would happen. We thought he was safe,” said Mrs. Rudie. “Brandon had deep cuts on the left side of his face – to the bone, his ear was severed, and his eye, mouth, and chest were badly injured. His plastic surgeon took tissue from his arm and back to repair his face. It took two months before we could bring Brandon home. Please don’t let your kids near lawn mowers, it’s just not safe.”
Unfortunately, 247,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries last year, more than 18,000 of them children under age 19, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Lawn mower-related injuries have increased 7 percent since 2008.
With the summer mowing season approaching, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) are working together to prevent injuries and educate adults and children about the importance of lawn mower safety.
“Lawn mower injuries are not only among the most devastating I’ve seen in over 20 years of practice, they are also the most preventable,” said ASRM President Peter Neligan, MD. “When a lawn mower injury happens to a child it is even more devastating because it is invariably due to the inattention of an adult. Don’t let your life or the life of your child be irrevocably changed by a moment of inattention.”
Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties – plastic surgery, microsurgery, maxillofacial surgery, pediatrics, and orthopaedics – to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months, sometimes years, to restore form and function.
“Lawn mower injuries often include deep cuts, loss of fingers and toes, limb amputations, broken and dislocated bones, burns, and eye injuries,” said ASPS President Michael McGuire, MD. “Most are caused by careless use and can be prevented by following a few simple safety tips.”
The ASRM, ASPS, ASMS, AAP and AAOS offer the following tips to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:
- Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16- years-old for a ride-on mower.
- Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
- Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing – not sandals.
- Young children should be at a safe distance from the area you are mowing.
- Pick up stones, toys and debris from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
- Always wear eye and hearing protection.
- Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
- Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – carefully look for others behind you when you do.
“Lawn mower injuries can be very severe, ranging anywhere from a small fracture or tendon tear to an amputation,” said AAOS President John J. Callaghan, MD. “Operating lawn mowers improperly can heighten the chance of injury, so it is our duty as orthopaedic surgeons, to educate the public about the dangers and provide people with a safe approach to lawn care.”
Hear, firsthand, Mrs. Rudie and her son’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Robert Whitfield, discuss the life altering effects of lawn mower injuries by downloading their video blog at plasticsurgery/x10363.xml.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons