More than 9,000 children and teenagers are injured by lawn mowers each year in the U.S., according to a new study.

Researchers say an estimated 140,700 children under age 20 were injured by lawn mowers from 1990 to 2004, and the injury rate has remained relatively steady over the last 15 years.

The most common injuries were cuts, soft tissue injuries (such as scrapes, bad bruises, and sprains), burns, and broken bones.

Researchers say the results show that current lawn mower safety standards are inadequate and most of these injuries could be prevented with improvements, such as:

--Designs that prevent the hands and feet from entering the path of the blades under the mower.

--Shielding hot mower parts from access by young children.

--Equipping all ride-on lawn mowers with a no-mow-in-reverse default feature, which will force the user to look behind the mower before moving backwards.

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Lawn Mower Injuries Major Cause of Childhood Injury

In the study, published in Pediatrics, researchers David Vollman, BS, and Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, from Ohio State University estimated the number of injuries caused by lawn mowers in children under age 20 from 1990 to 2004 using information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

During the 15-year study period there were an estimated 140,700 lawn mower-related injuries attributed to children treated in hospital emergency rooms, which equates to about 9,400 injuries per year or just more than 11 injuries per 100,000 children per year in the U.S.

More than three-fourths of children injured by lawn mowers were boys and the average age was just under 11 years.

The most common types of lawn-mower-related injuries were cuts, which accounted for 41% of injuries, followed by burns (16 percent), and broken bones (10 percent).

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Other findings include:

The most commonly injured body parts were the hands/fingers (nearly 35 percent of all injuries), followed by the legs (19 percent), and then foot/toes (18 percent).

The eyeball/face and upper body accounted for 11 percent and 7 percent of injuries, respectively.

Burns accounted for 35 percent of injuries to the hands and fingers, often the result of young children touching hot lawn mower parts.

Nearly all of amputation injuries (97 percent) were to the feet/toes (50 percent) and hands/fingers (48 percent).

Researchers say “passive” protection provided by improvements in lawn mower safety design is the best strategy to prevent lawn-mower-related injuries in children, and current safety features are not adequate.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCE: Vollman, D. Pediatrics, August 2006; vol 118: pp e273-e278.