Asking your child to mow the lawn is a risky proposition, a new study suggests.
About 9,400 American kids are injured by lawn mowers each year, and mowers cause 12% to 29% of all traumatic amputations among them, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Toe and foot amputations are the most common.
"Lawn mower injuries are largely preventable, but despite increased awareness, my colleagues and I continue to see a significant number of cases from May through October, some of which can be truly devastating," said study senior author Dr. Theodore Ganley, an orthopedic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
His team analyzed data on more than 1,300 patients under age 18 who were treated for lawn mower injuries at 49 U.S. hospitals between 2005 and 2017.
The lawn mower incident rate was 7.26 injuries per 100,000 cases in rural areas, and 1.47 injuries per 100,000 in urban areas, the findings showed.
The average age of injured kids was 7.7 years. Rural areas had a significantly higher percentage of injuries among 1- to 5-year-olds, compared to urban areas.
Ganley said that's likely due to the increased use of riding mowers.
"I personally encourage parents not to give toddlers rides on lawn mowers for fun, because when a child hears the mower, they are likely to run outside for a ride and the operator might not see or hear them," he said.
Slightly more than eight out of 10 injuries occurred in the Midwest and South; 46.5% of injuries required hospitalization, with a higher rate in rural areas (56%) than in urban areas (42%). Rates of infection and complications were also higher in rural areas, the findings showed.
About 65% of injuries involved lower extremities; upper extremities accounted for 22% of injuries. The most common injury was amputation (31%), and rural patients were 1.7 times more likely to have an amputation than urban patients.
Other types of injuries included open wounds/punctures/cuts (nearly 29%), and fractures and dislocations (24%), according to the report.
The average cost of injuries was $18,693, according to the study in the May issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
"These injuries impart a physical and psychosocial burden on patients and their families," Ganley said in an academy news release.
"While people might assume that injuries are just related to the lawn mower's blades, injuries also occur from projectiles such as rocks or sticks that eject from the lawn mower, and burns due to touching a hot lawn mower after use," he said.
His prescription: Keep kids indoors when it's time to cut the grass.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on lawn mowers.