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The Risks of Lawn Mowing

What happens when you take a set of sharp blades and spin them at 160 mph across a lawn?

Mowing the lawn is a more hazardous activity than one might think, sending 242,000 Americans to the ER between 2004 and 2006. A study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that accidents increased from 1996 to 2004. Ninety-five percent of lawn mower accidents treated at the Johns Hopkins pediatric trauma center between 2000 and 2005 involved amputations that needed reattachment or reconstructive surgery, according to Medical News Today. The decision to mow the lawn can also have fatal consequences for adults with heart problems.

Number of fatal accidents
There were 133 fatalities in 2006 from using lawnmowers of all types, based on a national probability sample of hospitals in the U.S. and its territories. In 2005, there were 406 deaths. However the difference is almost certainly a result of a reduction in the statistical weighting given to those hospitals where the deaths occurred in 2005, so it would be wrong to infer any trend downwards.

Chance of a fatal accident
One in 2,245,264 in 2006.

Cause of death
All the fatalities from lawn mowing resulted from cardiac arrest. All were male and aged between 40 and 79.

Number of nonfatal accidents
An estimated 77,039 people were treated in the ER for accidents involving lawnmowers in 2006.

Chance of a nonfatal accident
Overall: 1 in 3,876; Male: 1 in 2,626; Female: 1 in 7,248.

Those aged 75 to 79 were at the greatest risk of accident – 1 in 2,400 for male and female combined and 1 in 1,280 for men only.

Typical injuries
Lacerations; tripping and falling over the lawn mower; slipping and falling while mowing; toes amputated from feet slipping under mower; back injuries from pulling on the cable to start the mower; ankle sprains, shoulder strains, back pain from pushing mowers.

Abnormal injuries in 2006
— A 16 year-old male was racing his souped-up lawn mower and fell off while going 40mph; he suffered abrasions and bruising.
— An 18-year old male was using a lawn mower to jump-start a vehicle, when the mower ran over him, causing abrasions and bruising to his back.
— A mother backed over and amputated a two-year old foot while riding a lawn mower.
— A 37-year old male fractured his nose when the lawn mower he was cleaning fell on him.

It’s just not your lucky day
— A 60-year old man spilled gas refilling his lawn mower and “somehow his pants caught on fire,” leaving him with 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

Injuries from other sources sustained while lawn mowing
It may be your lawn, but the creatures who inhabit your garden don’t always take kindly to the intrusion. The most common risks are insect bites and bee stings; but in one case in 2006, a 54-year old male sustained two puncture wounds to his forearm from a bat after he hit a tree while riding a mower. Power lawn mower riders are also at risk from being chased and bitten by their neighbors’ dogs.

It’s just not your lucky day, part two
— A 34-year old male was mowing his lawn when he was hit by trash falling from a concrete truck and suffered bruising to his head.

Safety tips
The American Academy of Pediatrics have produced a safety guide to lawn mowing.

Feats of mowing
In Total Landscape Care magazine’s 2007 field test of the XC3300 Xcaliber mower, Cole Deason mowed a 60-acre field in five hours. “That’s compared to 12 hours of work with a tractor and mower implement, or seven to eight hours with a 61-inch deck zero-turn mower,” said Deason. The Xcaliber is made by Dixie Chopper – “The World’s Fastest Lawnmower” – in Greencastle, Indiana.

In July 2006, Bobby Cleveland set a world land speed record for a lawn mower on Utah’s salt flats by going over 80 mph.

More on racing power lawn mowers
Visit the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association’s great “Mow-ments” in lawn mower racing history.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Online.
Annual Estimates of the Population by Five-Year Age Groups and Sex for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006. U.S. Census Bureau, Online.
Annual Estimates of the Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006. U.S. Census Bureau, Online.


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