Children's Health

Lawn Mower Injuries All Too Common In Warmer Months

Andrew Sheffer was just five years old when he became one of the estimated 10,000 children in the U.S. injured annually in lawn mower accidents. Although Andrew’s accident was nearly seven years ago, the effects of that day have left a permanent mark on him and his family.

“Like many moms, I always thought an accident would never happen to my child,” said Jenny Sheffer, Andrew’s mom and resident of Cedar, Michigan. “Unfortunately, I was painfully wrong. I had my back turned for a split second and in those few moments, Andrew took off running towards the lawn mower. He fell and the mower caught his foot and leg up to his knee. His leg was unrecognizable immediately following the accident. At first, doctors didn’t think they could save it. Thankfully they were able to but he’s undergone multiple surgeries.”

Andrew’s accident could have been prevented and that’s what concerns Michael Forness, D.O., division chief, orthopedics, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“Never underestimate the power of a lawn mower,” said Forness. “From high decibel sounds and extremely sharp blades, mowers are dangerous on multiple levels. A mower projects objects at speeds reaching 200 miles per hour and with a force greater than a gun. Mower related injuries are the leading cause of traumatic amputations in children, and they should be approached with caution.”

Forness urges parents to remember the “Four N’s”:

  • No bare feet. Sturdy shoes should be worn when mowing.
  • No one in the yard. Keeping children inside is the best protection.
  • No riders. Never let a child ride with an adult.””””””””””””
  • No child operators. Children under 12 should not operate a push mower and children under 16 should not operate a rider.

“Lawn mower accidents often require multiple surgeries as the accidents injure growth plates in a child’s leg,” added Forness. “Preventing mower accidents is one of the simplest actions a parent can take.”

Other injury prevention measures include:

  • Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by removing objects from the lawn before mowing begins.
  • Wear hearing and eye protection.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
  • Never pull the mower backward or mow in reverse.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to completely stop before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing pathways and roads.

Andrew is now 12 years old and “all boy” according to his mom but has some limitations as a result of the accident.

“Gym class is challenging for him,” added Sheffer. “He isn’t able to run for prolonged periods of time. The accident certainly impacted his life but he’s determined to overcome any obstacles that come his way.”

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a member of Spectrum Health, is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. The team includes more than 100 specialists uniquely skilled in providing medical care to children, in over 40 outpatient clinical settings. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation.