Lawn Mower Injuries

Lawn Mower Injuries

Well, in the northern hemisphere the weather is making my lawn look awesome!!  Why we are obsessed with green lawns, I don’t know, but I can’t judge as I also enjoy a lush lawn.  Unfortunately, all of this obsessive behavior of lawn maintenance can unnecessarily endanger our children.  I know that Injury Prevention isn’t the most exciting topic for us to discuss (we have covered SubmersionsFirearms, and Laundry Pods previously), but an ounce of prevention is greater than a pound of cure, especially, when there is no great “cure” for mangled limbs.  Let us look at an unfortunately common summer-time danger: Lawn Mower Injuries.


Lawn Mower Injuries: Frightening Numbers

  • Amount of Lawn Mower Related Injuries

    • Recognized as a substantial health concern since the 1950’s.
    • Estimated # of power lawn mower associated injury cases: [Robertson, 2003]
      • 1997 – 60,016
      • 1998 – 75,375
      • 1999 – 69,480
      • 2000 – 79,892
      • Doesn’t look like we are learning our lesson or heeding the warnings.
    • Riding lawn mowers associated with ~20% of the injuries.


  • Lawn Mower Physics

    • Typical 26-inch rotary mower blades spin at 3,000 RPMs! [Park, 1976]
      • Can generate 2,100 ft lb of kinetic energy.
      • The momentum of the mower blade tip is equal to a 1.17 lb weight traveling 232 mph!
    • Speed Kills
      • Kinetic energy is related to the SQUARE of the blade velocity… higher speeds lead to more potential damage.
      • Dull blades require greater speed to do the same cutting job (why it is recommended to keep blades sharp).


  • Children are at Great Risk

    • Older individuals and children < 15 years of age have higher incidences of injuries. (Costilla, 2006)
    • Their smaller size can make the physical force from the lawn mower more devastating.
    • Their smaller size allows a greater proportion of the body to be involved in the injury.
    • Pediatric admission and treatment cost for lawn mower injury estimated at $90 million. (Loder, 1997)
    • Estimated annual burden for prosthetic costs range from $43 million to $75 million. (Loder, 2004)


Lawn Mower Injuries: Types of Damage

  • Direct Injuries
    • Upper and Lower extremity injuries are the most common.
      • Amputations occurred in at least 30% of cases in many studies.
    • Torso injury possible in infants who are run over.
    • Deformity is common, but death is potential!
  • Indirect / Missile Injuries
    • Many cases of patients injured from projectiles thrown from spinning blades.
      • One study found penetrating trauma from flying debris was most common cause of injury. (Costilla, 2006)
      • Case report of penetration of the vena cava (McKamie, 2007) and pericardial tamponade. (Esfahani, 2013).
    • Stresses importance of clearing cutting region from free debris.
  • Burns
    • From direct contact of hot engine or exhaust.
    • From mishaps with spilled fuel that ignites.
  • Infection
    • Wounds are prone to become infected.
    • Often contaminated with a broad range of organisms including gram positive and negative bacteria in addition to myobacteria and fungi. (Harkness, 2009)
    • Bone infection is also potential complication.
  • Psychologic
    • As with any devastating injury, there can be lasting psychologic consequences.
    • See Dog Bite and PTSD


Lawn Mower Injury Prevention:

  • Again, every opportunity to help reduce potential future injuries should be looked at as a means to keep our patients healthy (and prevent them from needing your services in the future).
  • Here are a few pointers you can remind people of:
      • Yes, I know the toy stores sell toy lawn mowers… this is likely a ill-advised.
      • The picture of the toddler “mowing” the grass adjacent to the parent with the lawn mower that has a blade spinning at 3,000 RPMs is not a picture we should support!
    2. No child < 14 years of age should operate a powered lawn mower!
      • In one study 85% of the children who were injured were < 14years of age. [Loder, 1997]
    3. Mowing the Lawn is NOT A BYSTANDER Sport!
      • Projectiles thrown from the machine’s blades can do irreversible damage!
      • Young children may wander in the path without the operator being aware.
    4. Safety devices are there for safety, not annoyance. Do NOT disengage them!
      • Seems counterproductive, but some of the safety devices can be disengaged.
      • Some mowers can be made to allow the blade to spin while moving in reverse.
      • Keep all safety devices engaged.
    5. Clear the Path!
      • Lawn mowers are designed to cut grass… not tree branches or thick brush.
      • Cleaning the path of debris can help reduce the risk of launching projectiles.
    6. Gravity always wins.
      • Avoid steep slopes.
      • When mowing lower slopes, do not mow them crosswise.


Esfahani SA1, Yousefzadeh DK. Pericardial tamponade with a normal cardiopericardial silhouette due to a penetrating metallic projectile propelled by a lawnmower. Pediatr Cardiol. 2013;34(8):2044-6. PMID: 23184019. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Harkness B1, Andresen D, Kesson A, Isaacs D. Infections following lawnmower and farm machinery-related injuries in children. J Paediatr Child Health. 2009 Sep;45(9):525-8. PMID: 19702605. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

McKamie WA1, Schmitz ML, Johnson CE, Ray T, Sanford GB, Dyamenahalli U, Imamura M. Superior vena cava perforation in a child from a lawnmower projectile. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2007 Nov;46(9):847-9. PMID: 17641123. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Costilla V1, Bishai DM. Lawnmower injuries in the United States: 1996 to 2004. Ann Emerg Med. 2006 Jun;47(6):567-73. PMID: 16713787. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Nugent N1, Lynch JB, O’Shaughnessy M, O’Sullivan ST. Lawnmower injuries in children. Eur J Emerg Med. 2006 Oct;13(5):286-9. PMID: 16969234. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Lau ST1, Lee YH, Hess DJ, Brisseau GF, Keleher GE, Caty MG. Lawnmower injuries in children: a 10-year experience. Pediatr Surg Int. 2006 Mar;22(3):209-14. PMID: 16421702. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Loder RT1, Dikos GD, Taylor DA. Long-term lower extremity prosthetic costs in children with traumatic lawnmower amputations. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Dec;158(12):1177-81. PMID: 15583104. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Robertson WW Jr1. Power lawnmower injuries. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2003 Apr;(409):37-42. PMID: 12671483. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Loder RT1, Brown KL, Zaleske DJ, Jones ET. Extremity lawn-mower injuries in children: report by the Research Committee of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. J Pediatr Orthop. 1997 May-Jun;17(3):360-9. PMID: 9150027. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]

Park WH, DeMuth WE Jr. Wounding capacity of rotary lawn mowers. J Trauma. 1975 Jan;15(1):36-8. PMID: 1117466. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]


Sean M. Fox
Sean M. Fox
Articles: 583


  1. Ride-on mowers and garden tractors are small agricultural vehicles. Specialised safety considerations apply to these. The best advice, as with all mowers, is to read the manufacturer’s safety instructions, seek advice from the retailer or consult a reputable online resource. Retailers usually provide safety instruction when the machine is delivered: listen carefully and apply the information when you use the machine.

  2. Hello
    Just recently became a grandpa.
    My daughter just sent me video of her daughter 6 months old sitting in chair watching her dad cut grass.
    I almost fell out my chair.
    I explained everything to her she said never again and thanks for the heads up.
    Never ever have young kids around when cutting grass.
    Only takes one second one rock and a child blinded for life.

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