Kids and Lawn Mowers Don't Mix
May 24, 2000 -- If parents realized what a riding lawn mower could do to a
child, they wouldn't dream of letting their own kids cut the grass, one medical
specialist says. In fact, he says, they'd keep them in the house even when Mom
or Dad is on lawn duty.
"If parents could see what I see, they'd keep their kids off ride-ons
and inside while mowing," says Chris Kennedy, MD, an emergency medicine
specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics
at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, both in Kansas City.
Kennedy was involved in one of two recent studies which found that lawn
mower injuries are often mutilating or fatal to children, but can be prevented
through public awareness. The other study, done by a group of Canadian
researchers, recommends that children up to age 15 be kept away from all
Kennedy presented the findings of his research at the recent joint meeting
of the Pediatric Academic Societies and the American Academy of Pediatrics. For
the study, he reviewed case reports of riding mower injuries to children from
Children's Mercy Hospital and from a national injury database of cases from
1991 to 1996.
In all, there were 115 cases in which children under 7 were injured by
ride-on mowers. Researchers found that 70% of the incidents involved boys, 30%
required amputations, and 10% resulted in death. Some of the most common,
accounting for 40% of all injuries, were caused by falling or jumping from
mowers. Another 40% were due to sliding under a mower or being backed over.
Surprisingly, all of the hospital cases occurred while a parent or relative was
driving the mower.
Canadian researchers report similar findings in a study published in the
Journal of PediatricSurgery. From 1990 to 1995, there were 180
national case reports involving either ride-on or push lawn mowers and children
under age 15.
"Cuts, broken bones, and burns accounted for more than 60% of all
injuries, half of which required amputation of toes, feet, or legs," says
Pierre Soucy, MD, chief of general surgery at Children's Hospital of Eastern
Ontario in Ottawa.
Referring to a 1990 policy statement on riding mowers by the American
Academy of Pediatrics, the authors call for public education. The guidelines
say children should be at least 14 years old and undergo a training period
before operating ride-on mowers.
Kennedy's own rule of thumb is "off and inside," a reminder that
kids should not be operators or passengers on mowers and are only out of harm's
way if indoors.
Soucy is spreading the message "Know Before You Mow" with posters
and pamphlets. The Canadian researchers recommend that no passengers be carried
on riding mowers, and that protective footwear -- hard, closed-toe shoes -- be
worn by anyone around a mower. They also say that "children younger than 15
years should not operate lawn mowers ... and should not be in the yard when
lawn is being mowed."