The accident typically happens on a spring or summer weekend, mostly to men, and the results can be severe: lacerations, fractures and even amputations.
From 2006 to 2013, an estimated 51,151 people were injured while mowing the lawn, and 12,243 of them wound up losing a body part.
In a study published in the journal Public Health Reports, researchers tracked the injuries using a federal government database of emergency room visits. Most of the damage was to the hands and feet, the scientists found. Almost half involved lacerations, and about 22 percent resulted in an amputation.
Eye and face injuries accounted for 1 percent of emergency room visits, and fractures for 22.4 percent. More than 200 people suffered burns from lawn mowers serious enough to be treated in an E.R.
About 85 percent of the injured went home after being treated, while the rest stayed in the hospital or went to another facility — a nursing home for rehabilitation, for example, or a short-term hospital.
Those who were immediately hospitalized stayed an average of two days, but about 600 of them needed home nursing care after they were discharged.
And the price tag for all this landscaping mayhem? The average emergency room visit cost $ 2,482, and the average charge for hospitalization was $ 36,987 per patient. The researchers estimate that in all, lawn mower injuries cost a little more than $ 36 million a year.
Children under age 4 were more likely than older people to injure their feet and to suffer an amputation. Based on their own experiences, the authors suggested that these injuries occur when a child approaches a family member who is mowing the lawn, or when they fall off the lap of a person driving a riding mower.
Dr. Deborah Schwengel, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the study, said that while there are fewer injuries to children, they tend to be more severe.
“We’ve learned that well-meaning adults are not aware of the danger, and that kids wind up with an amputation of an entire foot or part of a leg,” she said.
Older children and adults sometimes stick their hands into a mower, despite the whirring blades, to clear debris.
The solution, Dr. Schwengel said, is safer equipment: “We’re working with university engineering departments, and our hope is to create lawn mowers that are smart enough so that no one gets their foot or hand chopped off.”