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April 19, 2006

Injuries from Lawn Mowing Increase Nationwide

Study Warns of Hazards for Children and Older Adults

Mowing the lawn can be a weekly ritual of the spring and summer months for many Americans. However 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. The researchers also concluded that the number of injuries from lawn mowers is increasing, with the majority of injuries occurring in children under age 15 and adults age 60 and older. The most common injuries were caused by strikes from debris, such as rocks and branches, propelled by the mower’s spinning blades. The study, published in the April 2006 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, MD, PhD, MPH, 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 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 U.S. emergency rooms for lawn mower injuries between 1996 and 2004. More than 80,000 people required hospital treatment for lawn mower injuries in 2004, which means about 2 out of every 1,000 injury-related emergency room visits is because of a lawn mower injury. 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 non-specific pain after mowing and injuries occurring while servicing the mower. The most common injury requiring hospitalization was fractures of the foot.

Based on the study results, Bishai recommends some safety tips to follow to avoid lawn mowing injuries.

• 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
• People with histories of chest, back or joint pain should reconsider mowing
• Use care and wear protective gloves when servicing mower or changing blades
• Many injuries occur while lifting mower—get help if needed
• Never service the mower while it is running
• Mow only in good weather conditions—avoid mowing in high heat
• Do not use riding mower 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 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,” said Bishai.

Funding for the study was provided by the Student Diversity Office at the Johns Hopkins 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.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.